JENNY MARCHANT, CO-HOST: Shortland MP, Pat Conroy, is the Minister for International Development and the Pacific and is just back from Egypt. Good morning Minister.
PAT CONROY MP: Morning Jenny. Morning Dan.
MARCHANT: Well COP27 and the discussions that you had there and those that continue. Will it actually make a difference for our Pacific neighbours?
CONROY: Well we need to make a difference for our Pacific neighbours. We need to make sure we keep 1.5 alive, which means we need to keep the hope to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees alive and Australia is proud to be part of that. One of the messages I had for the 10 Pacific leaders and Ministers I met with was that the new Australian government has changed our policies and we are now committed to be part of the solution. We’ve got stronger climate policies that will help save the Pacific, help rebuild our relationships with the Pacific and drive hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs in Australia.
DAN COX, CO-HOST: So Minister, what are we willing to do then because we are still burning thermal coal, we are still reliant on fossil fuels, we talk about changing that but it’s a big complex issue to change. What are we willing to do?
CONROY: Well, we’re the first government in the entire world that has increased our climate targets post the Glasgow conference last year. As a result of the election and the Government change we’ve increased our domestic targets to 43% reduction by 2030 on the way to net-zero by 2050. That’s now the law of the land, we passed climate laws and we will also deliver 82% renewable energy by 2030, which is a massive, massive change. That will drive hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs and we are also helping the Pacific through a Pacific Climate Finance Facility to help deal with rising sea levels in the Pacific and to help convert Pacific nations to renewable energy generation coupled with batteries to get them off very expensive diesel fuel imports. So we are doing a lot domestically and we are stepping up internationally.
MARCHANT: There was discussion in Egypt about a compensation fund essentially for poorer countries suffering from severe weather events. Is Australia part of that? Are we contributing?
CONROY: Well this is a term called ‘loss and damage’ and we were part of the move to put it on the UN agenda. For the first time it’s going to be discussed. Importantly it rules out compensation. It’s more about climate finance and Australia is providing a lot of climate finance already. I talked about the Pacific Climate Facility we’ve committed to providing $2 billion of climate finance over a 5-year period and that’s really important because we need to help our Pacific neighbours adapt to climate change. I meet with Pacific communities that are losing their fresh drinking water, that are losing their schools, that are losing their homes, losing their farmland and we need to support them to adapt, and Australia is leading that in the Pacific, and we should be really proud of that.
MARCHANT: So, just to clarify. We’re not talking about contributing to a fund that would rebuild after a flood or a disaster. You’re saying instead Australia wants to contribute to projects that will increase batteries and those types of projects you said now as opposed to helping after a disaster.
CONROY: We already do both so for example, after the devastating floods in Pakistan, we sent millions of dollars of aid to provide food and water and to help them rebuild. So we’re already doing that. The ‘loss and damage’ debate is a formal debate within the UN climate process that will take a couple of years but it’s important to know it’s not compensation it’s more about assisting countries to rebuild and also help prepare for rising sea levels and we’re already doing a lot of that and we’re saying we’re prepared to be part of that process. But people should really focus on the most important thing we can do is reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and help be another voice for the Pacific in these international negotiations because there is a danger of backsliding. There are certain countries to our north who are trying to reduce global momentum to combat climate change.
COX: Tony from Jewells is saying “Is the world’s biggest polluter, China, going to do anything about climate?” Did you get a sense at the conference that every country is on board with this Minister?
CONROY: Well that was what I was alluding to just before. They’ve got their climate targets, we would like them to do more. They are the biggest emitter in the world and we think that they can and should do more to combat climate change. They do have targets and we call upon them to commit to those targets and they are investing massively in renewable energy, not just to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions but quite frankly, because they know that’s where massive jobs growth is going to occur and that’s why Australia is really trying to catch up under the new government to seize those clean energy job opportunities.
MARCHANT: Minister, you have just returned from Papua New Guinea commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign, what was it like to be part of that?
CONROY: It was incredible, Jenny. It will live with me to the day I die. The privilege of going up to Papua New Guinea, our closest neighbour, it’s only four kilometres from Australia and I had a series of meetings with the new Papua New Guinean government and led discussions on how we can work closer together and then I went to the village of Kokoda. To be part of the 80th commemorations on a battle that I certainly think was the most important battle in the history of Australia and I don’t say that lightly, I am about to go to Remembrance Day commemorations for World War I but this is a battle where Australia, with Papua New Guinea assistance, the fuzzy-wuzzy angels, and also Papua New Guineans fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Australians, turned back the tide of the Japanese army and saved Papua New Guinea, and saved Australia. That’s why I say, this was the battle that made Australia and made Papua New Guinea, it was critical for their independence as well. So it was a huge privilege to be part of the commemorations.
COX: Minister, they have some very talented athletes. I know there’s talk about getting an NRL team in PNG. You were there also discussing AFL and the potential for some strong connections between our country and Papua New Guinea, what’s the latest? What can you tell us?
CONROY: Well, yes, I launched an Aussie Rules partnership where we’re partnering with Papua New Guinea to bring forward some of their elite athletes into the AFL competition. There’s already a couple of talented athletes playing for the Gold Coast Suns and the Brisbane Lions. The Lions won in the women’s comp, and we’re prepared to do more there. As a rugby league man, it hurt me a bit to be talking Aussie Rules and to help funding it, but sport is one of the shared things that unites the Pacific with Australia. It’s one of our people-to-people links that is so critical to us rebuilding our relationship with the Pacific and making sure we are true member of the Pacific family because there is competition out there for influence in the Pacific and sport is critical to that and I’m really excited about rugby league in PNG. It’s a national religion there and I’m working very hard to grow the game there.
MARCHANT: Thanks for talking through a range of issues with us this morning and those commemorative services certainly that you and your staff will be attending I know will be very much appreciated. Thank you.
CONROY: Not a problem. Have a great morning guys, bye bye.
MARCHANT: Pat Conroy Member for Shortland. He is also the Minister for International Development and the Pacific.