Australian Prime Minister Radio interview – ABC News Radio

Prime Minister

: The Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton, says he won’t commit to a climate change target for 2030, saying people want politicians to focus on the cost of living. The Prime Minister says he doesn’t think Australians want another election fought on climate change and that they’d elected him to get on with the job. And the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, joins us on ABC News Radio now. Prime Minister, good morning. Thanks for your time.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. Thanks for having me back on the program.

ORITI: I just want to raise something Peter Dutton said yesterday, “So the Labor party can try and please people in Paris, my job is to take care of the Australian people and that’s exactly what I would do as Prime Minister.” Does he have a point there? I mean, Australians are dealing with a housing crisis, the rising cost of living. Is that message from Peter Dutton likely to resonate with them? They care about domestic issues ahead of the election and not, in his words, “pleasing people in Paris.”

PRIME MINISTER: Well, once again he tries to press a button by talking about Paris, something that the Coalition Government signed up to, I might repeat. And the Paris Accord that the Coalition signed up to requires 2030 targets. It requires those targets not to go backwards. We went to the last election with a 43 per cent commitment by 2030 and Peter Dutton is saying, “I’ll go to the next election and I’ll tell you what we will do after the election.” It’s quite extraordinary for the leader of a major political party to refuse to come clean, and that’s because he is hopelessly divisive in all that he puts forward. His party is hopelessly divided and there’s no detail with any of the policy proposals that they put forward. Just, “we’ll have some nuclear fantasy by 2040.” And in the meantime, no plan to ensure energy security, no plan to ensure that we get the investment that we need, that will put downward pressure on power prices and will deal with our emissions.

ORITI: Ok, Prime Minister, in terms of signing up to Paris, we need to point out he still said that the Opposition has an absolute commitment to net zero by 2050.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s not what Paris is about. Be very clear.

ORITI: Sure.

PRIME MINISTER: If you do not have a 2030 target, then you are pulling out of Paris and you’re with Yemen, with Libya and you’re with Iran.


PRIME MINISTER: That is a cohort, I do not want Australia to be with.

ORITI: To be part of, right, but in terms of 2030. Sorry, interrupt. He said, the reason why he’s not saying it now is he said, “oh, hang on, we’re going to look at the prevailing economic conditions after the election and to make announcements in due course.” I mean, is that fair enough? We are living in very volatile economic times. Isn’t it right to set targets based on those prevailing conditions and not, in his words, send the economy into freefall?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s just a nonsense. His policy is a complete vacuum. And he’s saying, “we won’t tell you what we will do before the election,” because he knows that a plan that says we’ll have a nuclear reactor, which will be eight times more expensive than renewables, with firming of capacity, by 2040, and in the meantime, we won’t tell you what we will do to ensure that the energy grid remains functioning whilst our coal fired power stations continue to close, as they did on the former Government’s watch. The former Government had 22 different energy policies when they were in Government and they didn’t land one of them. Now they’re going to have 22 policies by the end of the week. You’ve got different policies out there by Bridget Archer today, saying that they have to have a 2030 target. You’ve got Barnaby Joyce, who’s one of their front benchers, along with people like Matt Canavan, saying that they should not support net zero by 2050. You have absolute chaos on the Coalition side, and what we need is certainty. And that’s why the business community joined with Labor and the Government to support this 2030 target, to support net zero and to support legislating it, and to have a method to get there through the safeguard mechanism and then the other measures we’ve introduced since then, such as a capacity investment scheme.

ORITI: What about his claims, though, that you might not meet that target anyway? I mean, the Department of Energy has said we might be 1 per cent shy of the 2030 target. He’s arguing your policies aren’t working.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the target’s 43. We’re on track for 42, six years before we have to get there. And since that determination, we’ve announced policies such as production tax credits for green hydrogen and for critical minerals. We’ve legislated now, our fuel standards for vehicles. That will make a contribution as well. We’ll continue to announce policies and we are very confident of reaching 43 per cent by 2030, on track to get to net zero by 2050. You can’t do absolutely nothing until 2040. That’s what happened under the decade that they were in office. Twenty-two policies announced, nothing landed. They said coal fired power stations would continue to exist into the never never, while places like Liddell shut. That is not a plan.

ORITI: What about, let’s say, okay, you’re 1 per cent short at the moment, six years to go, right. What about 2035 targets? There’s talk that that number needs to have a seven in front of it, 70 per cent to 75 per cent. Can you shed any light on what your plans might be there?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’re focused on our 2030 plans, which comes before 2035, obviously.

ORITI: Sure.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that is what we are focused on.

ORITI: I guess the reason why I’m asking is if you, if there’s a chance you might not meet the 2030 target, what’s to say we’ll reach it in 2035 if it’s much, much higher?

PRIME MINISTER: No, we’re focused on what is real, what is legislated, and that is our 2030 target. Peter Dutton needs to explain how it is that, who’s going to vote for the repeal of the legislation for the 2030 target? I mean, this is a plan for ongoing rolling chaos, which is what we had over a decade. And that chaos leads to problems with the energy grid, it leads to higher prices than would occur otherwise. And the nuclear fantasy we know can’t occur until 2040. And in the meantime, we’ll have these old coal fired power stations closing and no plan for energy security in the meantime. What we need and what business is saying very clearly and why our policy was supported by the Business Council of Australia, by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as by mainstream conservation groups, is a serious plan going forward. That’s what we have with the funding attached for programs like Rewiring the Nation, with plans that, with obligations under the Safeguard Mechanism that has also been legislated. A mechanism that was, of course, a part of Greg Hunt’s plan way back when he was the Minister, but never, ever implemented.

ORITI: Okay, I want to ask you about a few other issues while we’ve got you there, Prime Minister, forgive me, but I just got to ask briefly, first, snap elections called in France. They go into the polls earlier than expected in the UK as well. There are reports here you might be tempted to go to the polls early. Can you break some news for us on ABC News Radio? What are your plans?

PRIME MINISTER: You’d like that, Thomas?

ORITI: Thought I’d try.

PRIME MINISTER: It’s a good try. But I’ve said consistently, three year terms are too short. I wish there were four year terms. I know that certainly the chaos in the Coalition will lead people to look at that, and I know, another journalist said to me over the weekend, said, “oh, if I were you, I’d be going to an election.” We intend to serve out our term. We’ve got a big agenda and what we’re focused on is good policy and implementing them. We’ll leave the politics and the nonsense to the Coalition.

ORITI: And you won’t take advice from journalists on when to call the election. When you do eventually go to the polls, though, Mr Dutton’s made it clear he wants to focus on things like nuclear power, migration, the cost of living. With that in mind, though, what do you make of this report out today? It’s from the Centre for Policy Development. Child care, three days of free child care for disadvantaged families, others $30.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is an important contribution to the policy debate. We’ve made child care cheaper for more than 1 million Australian families. And we know that early education is so important for our youngest Australians to develop their social skills and to prepare for school, and that it also helps with productivity by allowing mums and dads to be back at work if they choose to do so. So, we think that universal early childhood education is desirable and possible. We have got a report that will be published soon from the Productivity Commission. That was the policy that we went to the election at a time when Oppositions had policies before the election. Didn’t say, “vote for us and we’ll tell you afterwards.”

ORITI: Ok, I’ve got a couple of other issues. Forgive me. China’s Premier to arrive in Australia on Saturday, the first by a Premier since 2017. What’s at the top of your agenda there, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is an important visit. We will have our bilateral Leaders’ Meeting. We held last year’s in Beijing, this year’s will be here in Canberra, and I’ll also host a lunch at Parliament House. That will be an opportunity for engagement with the business community. We will have a formal Australia-China CEO Roundtable in Perth. That will be the 7th time this has occurred. We know something like one in every four of our export dollars comes from exports to China, so they are by far our largest trading partner. And we continue to pursue a stable and direct relationship with China, one where we are able to talk about the differences that we have, and we do have different political systems, but also one in which we cooperate wherever we can and where we have that engagement, which is in both countries interests.

ORITI: I just want to ask you about Gaza as well. Can you just keep us up to date? I understand Australia’s announced more money, hasn’t it? An extra $10 million for urgent aid in Gaza. What’s the latest there?

PRIME MINISTER: We have. Anne Aly, who is one of our Ministers in charge of early childhood, is attending the international conference there that has been convened by Egypt, Jordan and the United Nations. We have announced an additional $10 million in humanitarian assistance to address the urgent needs which are there in Gaza. That funding will go to the World Food Program to provide essential food that is needed in Gaza, which is facing a diabolical situation with a risk of famine. We have now provided in total since last October, some $72.5 million in humanitarian assistance for Gaza to respond to what is a refugee crisis in the region.

ORITI: Just finally this morning, Hamas has reacted to the peace deal of sorts. I mean not outright support, but ready to engage positively to reach an agreement to the end of the war in Gaza. What do you, I mean, what do you know about that deal? Does it have your support? Are you feeling optimistic at this point?

PRIME MINISTER: It certainly does have our support. This war needs to stop. And a ceasefire proposal put forward by the United States and now adopted by the UN Security Council is positive leadership from the United States. It is a plan that we fully support. We need to see an end to the conflict. We need to see the hostages released and we need to see a plan for the infrastructure and for rebuilding of basic facilities there in Gaza. And we need a long term solution. And we know that that requires two states, Israel and Palestine, with people being able to live in peace and security side by side, with prosperity able to be achieved. That is something that we support, the United States supports, and the world through the United Nations has expressed support for.

ORITI: It’s great having you again on the program, Prime Minister. Thank you very much for joining us.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Thomas.

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