November 09, 2021

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: I spoke to the shadow Minister Assisting for Climate Change Pat Conroy a bit earlier and asked him about that point ... that the Prime Minister is saying in the Hunter he is pro-resources yet Mr Conroy is over there at the climate talks. I began by asking him though about this electric vehicles strategy and I asked him doesn't it inject some credibility for the Government's net zero emissions target?
PAT CONROY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND THE PACIFIC AND SHADOW MINISTER ASSISTING FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: No it doesn't because anyone with a memory greater than a goldfish will remember the Prime Minister saying that electric vehicles will end the weekend. So this is just more spin from a Prime Minister addicted to spin. The truth is that refuelling stations, charging points are important for electric vehicles but the greatest barrier to people buying more electric vehicles in Australia is reducing the price of them. And that is why Labor has announced policies that could reduce the price of an electric vehicle by $9,000. That is what the Prime Minister is steadfastly refusing to do. 
GILBERT: The thing the Prime Minister keeps repeating today, and it is consistent with his rhetoric previously, is that he wants to give people the choice in terms of what car they buy. Is that something that will resonate in electorates including yours in Shortland?
CONROY: Well there is not a choice if one choice is very much more expensive than the other. So we have been very clear that we would invest in increasing the charging infrastructure but you need to tackle the price constraint. So Mr Morrison is just trying to spin a very half-hearted announcement, he is trying to retreat from his ridiculous hyperbole about electric vehicles ending the weekend. Unless you get the price down they aren't attractive to Australians. 
GILBERT: Now as I have said you are in Glasgow, you have been very close to those talks. Will they be a success in your view?

CONROY: They have been remarkable to some extent already. What we have seen is a great effort by many companies, by many countries rather, to increase their emissions reduction targets. This has been the main push by Boris Johnson and President Biden. For the first time in the history of the globe the Nationally Determined Contributions from all the gathered nations, if implemented - and that is always a big if - would keep global warming to only 1.8 degrees Celsius. We need to get down to 1.5 degrees Celsius but 1.8 degrees Celsius is a great achievement. Although it does highlight how intransigent Australia has been, how backward-looking and laggardly this Government has been with its refusal to increase its 2030 target.

GILBERT: Isn't it fair to say though that the real concerns expressed there have been about the likes of China, India, Russia as opposed to Australia?

CONROY: China and India have lodged targets for emissions reductions for the middle of the century that are significant given their status. And China has upped its projections of its emissions reductions to 2030, something Australia has not done. So it's a transparent exercise by the Government to try and cover for its lack of action by saying look over here, look at what China and Russia and India are doing. The truth is that the rest of the world expected us to come with an increased commitment around 2030 emissions reductions. That's the main focus of this conference. The Government has failed to do that and that has not just damaged our international standing, it has also reduced our ability to grab the hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs that are on offer for countries that take action on climate change.
GILBERT: The Australian again reporting today that Josh Burns and Anne Ali urging Anthony Albanese among others, but they are the ones quoted, to go more ambitious for the 2030 target than the 35 per cent projected by the Federal Government. Is that something, is that a fait accompli in your mind that given your critique of where the Government is at that quite simply you have to be more ambitious in that mid-term?

CONROY: We have already indicated from Anthony Albanese down that we will take a more ambitious 2030 target to the next election, above the 26 per cent the Government has committed to. I've got very little confidence they will achieve the 35 per cent. Let's be frank about it. Australia's reductions have fallen by 20 per cent since 2005 - 14 percentage points of that 20 per cent occurred when Labor was last in government, five percentage points occurred because of Labor's Renewable Energy Target which this Government has tried to abolish at least three times. Only one percentage point has occurred due to this Government's actions and that was the COVID recession. So this Government has delivered zero emissions reductions. So I still don't have confidence they will get to 26 per cent or 35 per cent. We have announced that we will have a target that is north of the Government's, that is scientifically responsible, that's a genuine milestone on the way to getting to net zero emissions by 2050.

GILBERT: To do that, to go more ambitious, is it also inevitable that you have to take a toughening of the safeguard mechanism put in place by the Government to cap emissions by heavy industry?

CONROY: We are looking at a range of options but I am not ready to announce our policy on your show today, sadly. I do find it ironic that Mr Morrison is trying to engineer a scare campaign about the safeguards mechanism that is his Government's policy. So his thesis is that Labor might think about implementing a safeguards mechanism that is his Government's own policy. That is how ridiculous this Government's climate attacks are now reaching.

GILBERT: But it depends I guess on how ambitious or strong those moves are in terms of the safeguard mechanism. We got a bit of a hint from that yesterday when the Prime Minister was campaigning - very early start to this campaign, it looks like maybe seven months long, a marathon - but he was in your neck of the woods and announced the candidate for Shortland. Is it a bit of a risk for you that he says look I am in the Hunter, I am in that region, saying I am resources friendly while you're over there at COP26?

CONROY: I welcome the Prime Minister turning up for once to the Hunter. I would have welcomed it more if he had explained to my constituents why he aided and abetted the Liberal Government in NSW stealing our Pfizer vaccine during the height of the COVID lockdown. I would have welcomed him explaining to my constituents why he engineered a COVID lockdown that led to huge misery for my constituents. I would have welcomed him explaining why he is up there announcing a small hydrogen study rather than matching Labor's $1 billion hydrogen policy we took to the last election. They will try and run in all these seats. i don't take Shortland for granted. We have been working very hard to build the trust of the constituents, the electors of Shortland with a range of positive policies. We have made over 7,000 calls to constituents since the COVID lockdown began to check on their welfare, to check how they are going, and we will keep working on it. I am confident that the range of policies that Anthony Albanese and the rest of the team will be presenting will be sufficient to earn the trust of the Shortland electors again.

GILBERT: It looks like Labor is stronger elsewhere, like in WA even in Queensland now, and the Hunter is seen as one of those vulnerabilities that the Government might pick up a couple. Your seat after the last election is in that marginal range though isn't it, is it vulnerable?

CONROY: It is marginal and I obviously had to learn some deep lessons from the last election about where we got it wrong and lost the trust of the voters and I am confident we have learned those lessons, that our policy offerings and our values reflect those lessons. But I am sick of these fake culture wars where the Prime Minister goes up with high visibility to argue that somehow he is the workers' best friend. if he was the friend of coal miners in my electorate - I have 1,000 coal miners in my electorate - he would be announcing policies to attack the labour hire casualisation that is destroying thousands of well-paid, secure jobs in that industry. An he doesn't, he just goes up to make an announcement for a $1.5 million study, lobs some announcements about some candidates, gets a few selfies and then he leaves and goes =back to the Shire. This guy has betrayed the Hunter through the COVID lockdown. He betrayed the constituents of the Hunter and Central Coast by stealing our vaccines. This guy is not serious about the Hunter, he is just trying to get some quick and easy headlines but he will leave us in the lurch. he has cut our GP access after hours service, he is attacking Medicare, he is threatening pensioners in my neck of the woods with a cashless welfare card. So this guy doesn't have the interests of my community and I am confident that the majority of people in Shortland see right through him.

GILBERT: Joining me from Glasgow Shadow Assistant Minister for Climate Change Pat Conroy. Appreciate your time, thanks.

CONROY: Not a problem, have a great afternoon.