December 06, 2021

Listen to the interview here.

RICHARD KING, PRESENTER: Well Labor unveiled a 2030 emissions reduction target on Friday. 43 per cent which is certainly well ahead of the 28 per cent offered thus far by the Morrison Government and obviously a point of difference on the subject of climate change. And of course, as you would expect, Government MPs have come out and been highly critical. This is what Josh Frydenberg, our Treasurer had to say over the weekend re Labor’s climate policy.

GRAB OF JOSH FRYDENBERG: What Labor has announced is simply a reheat of the target that they took to the 2019 election which Anthony Albanese said was an actual mistake. Now Labor can’t be trusted on this important economic transition. The last time they had a go at climate policy, we got a doubling in electricity prices, we lost one in eight manufacturing jobs, and Australians got the carbon tax that they were promised they would not get. Labor says they’re going to legislate it. Labor’s going to mandate it. Now they won’t do that themselves in the Senate, they will do that in partnership with the Greens, and the Greens have a 75 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030. So this is the first bid by the Labor Party. This is not the policy that if Australians voted for Australians will get, and that is why I am very skeptical.

KING: Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on the weekend in response to Anthony Albanese and his announcement on Friday of the climate policy of Labor. And someone who was instrumental in the formulation of that policy joins us now. He is a local, Labor’s Federal Member for Shortland, Pat Conroy is on the line. Good morning Pat.



KING: And you’re on holidays now, bundied off Federal Parliament last week?

CONROY: Ah not quite. I’m actually back in Canberra for some meetings today but I enjoyed the markets on Saturday at Pelican where we had some good conversations.

KING: Good, good, good. Well obviously you disagree with what Josh Frydenberg had to say, the unveiling of the policy that, well Josh Frydenberg reckons it isn’t a policy, Pat?

CONROY: Yeah, well this is just the standard scare campaign from the Liberal Government. It’s so standard for them that they were criticising our policy before they even knew the details of it.

And the facts are these: our policy will create 600,000 jobs, it will lower prices for households by $275 a year, and it will lead us to having 82 per cent renewable energy. So it’s a modest policy. It’s the middle of the road. It’s been endorsed by people like the Business Council and the Australian Industry Group. It’s been criticised by both the Greens and the Liberal Party so I think we’ve got the balance about right.

KING: Well one of the criticisms is it leaves the door open for a new carbon tax. Do you think we will see that, Pat?

CONROY: No. That’s completely incorrect. This is a scheme that has been suggested by the Business Council, it’s been welcomed by the Australian Industry Group, and as I said it will lower power prices and it will create 600,000 jobs.

So we are seeing all of these lies floating around by a desperate Government, but the truth is they don’t have a policy. They don’t have a plan to grow jobs and modernise our economy and take action on climate change, and we are trying to be positive and put out some strong policies that are completely costed and modelled independently, and all we get from the Government is scare campaigns and lies. And I think people are sick of that. They want a contest of positive ideas between the Government and the Opposition.

BULL: Pat, what are some of the flow on benefits specifically to the Hunter region with Labor’s climate policy?

CONROY: Yeah well we are going to be in a really strong position to win a lot of those jobs. So of those 600,000 jobs that the modelling predicts, five out of six, so 500,000 of those jobs, will be in regions and regions like ours. So we have allocated $3 billion to grow new industries like green hydrogen, new advanced battery manufacturing, helping our great manufacturers switch over to cheaper renewable energy.

And our policy won’t just lower power prices for households, it will lower power prices for our big industry. So by 2030, our big industry will be paying over a quarter lower power – their prices will be 26 per cent lower than what they’re paying now, and that means more jobs for our regions and new industries popping up that we will have good, secure manufacturing jobs in.

BULL: But specifically how is your climate policy going to result in a reduction in power bills?

CONROY: So it does it principally through the Rewiring the Nation Corporation. This is $20 billion to invest in the new transmission connections. We’ve got solar farms right now, particularly in Western NSW, that are being built that can’t connect to the grid because we don’t have the poles and wires to feed them in. By investing in the transmission grid, that will allow more renewable energy in and as everyone knows - particularly people who’ve put solar on their roofs - renewable energy is cheaper. So if you can get more of it in while maintaining security, making sure there’s good backup, you lower power prices and that leads to more jobs.

KING: Government has been saying for some time and, well we’ll focus on the fact, we’re going to have a chat with Matt Canavan a bit later this morning, he’s here as part of this Senate Select Committee on Job Security. I think they open two days of hearings at Wests Newcastle, it will be today and tomorrow. And of course the argument is with so many people involved in the coal industry here in our neck of the woods, job security is massive or is a big issue and that, you know, the fear campaign, there are all of these people that are going to lose their jobs. How do you counter that, Pat?

CONROY: Well our policy has been very carefully designed to make sure that that will not occur. Our policy will not impact on coal mining jobs one iota, and the truth is that we designed it to do that. So until our competing coal mines internationally, until places like Mongolia, Zimbabwe, and Indonesia require their coal mines to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, we won’t do that for our coal mines. And that’s really important because we need to reduce emissions, but we don’t want to ship them overseas.

So our coal mines won’t be impacted by this policy one iota. Our modelling shows that our policy will not bring forward the closure of any of our coal fired power stations. They’ve got closure dates set by their own companies mostly. And importantly, our coal miners, our mines really rely on electricity to be competitive, so it will actually lower the power prices for them.

So I expect a scare campaign about the end of coal mining and all of that rubbish, but our policy will not impact on coal mining one iota. Most of it is exported so it won’t affect our emissions, and the truth is if you care about job security and improving the quality of coal mining jobs, the most important thing is to end the scourge of labour hire and fake casuals.

So that’s why we’ve announced a policy of Same Job, Same Pay because too many coal mining jobs aren’t good paying, secure jobs anymore. They’re labour hire jobs where people are doing the same job but are being paid up to half the amount as someone who is permanently employed. So if the Liberal Party was honest and actually committed to helping coal miners, they’d support Labor’s Same Job, Same Pay policy.

BULL: Pat just changing the subject, there’s been a lot of talk recently about politicians being under the influence of alcohol while voting in Parliament. Do you think a booze ban should be in place in Parliament House?

CONROY: Well we’ve got to get the balance right. It’s something where in a normal workplace you’re obviously not allowed to drink and that’s something we need to be conscious of, and there is a culture in Parliament that’s quite toxic at times and we have to change it. And ultimately we have to be responsible to the electors who put us there.

So I think that it’s something we do need to explore, but ultimately it’s up to individual behaviour. It’s up to each MP to reflect on their behaviour and make sure they always operate in a professional environment. For example, I will represent the people of Shortland at events in the community at night, it might be a community dinner – a Lions dinner or a Rotary dinner – and I might have a glass of wine because that’s part of the event.

So ultimately I think it’s about MPs being professional and accountable, but I certainly agree what’s gone on in the past is a disgrace, and the Jenkins review into sexual harassment and bullying is a real wake up call for every single Parliamentarian.

KING: Local government elections in our neck of the woods, certainly it would appear a vote of confidence for Labor. I noticed Kay Fraser returned as Mayor of Lake Macquarie said over the weekend it augurs well for the federal election. Do you think we can read anything into local government elections pertaining to a federal election, Pat?

CONROY: Oh I’d like to say I hope so, but I’m not sure to be honest. I think the vote was a vote of confidence in the stable, balanced approach that Lake Macquarie Labor has taken to the Council. It’s a very well-run Council. It’s not extreme, it’s balanced, and quite frankly the councillors work well with each other. It’s not the sort of debacles you see in other councils where people are arguing all the time.

So I’m really happy with the result, and I think there’s a decent chance Labor will get a majority on the Council which will make it even more stable, but I just congratulate the whole Lake Macquarie Labor team for a good campaign. I hope it leads to a good result at the federal election, but ultimately I’ve just got to be out there arguing and explaining our policies and hope that people support them.

BULL: Well Pat if the latest Newspoll is anything to go by this morning it seems that voters are favouring Labor to win the next federal election. Surely that’s got to make you smile on a Monday morning?

CONROY: We’ve seen this movie before in 2019.


I think it’s really important that people understand and that I explain how their lives will be better under Labor. Whether it’s lowering power prices, more free TAFE spots, 600,000 more jobs – it’s my job and the job of every Labor MP to get out there and explain how we can improve the country because it’s a great country, it can be better, and explain that we’ve got a plan to do it, and ultimately it will be on the election day that people make that judgement. And that’s why we are doing phone banking, street stalls, market stalls almost every weekend, because that’s the only way you win the election is by building that trust with the community. So the polls are good but I’m not going to rely on them.

KING: Thanks for your time this morning Pat.

BULL: Thanks Pat.

KING: Have a safe and happy Christmas.

CONROY: Yeah you too Richard and Shanna.