PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 26 OCTOBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Resources portfolio in Cabinet; secret Nationals deal on net zero by 2050; resources sector jobs; coal exports; COP Glasgow; Liberal scare campaigns.
MADELEINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES: Good morning everybody. I just want to speak about the Resources portfolio. It’s a very important thing that the Resources portfolio is back in the Cabinet. But let’s remember how it came to not be in the Cabinet of the Commonwealth of Australia: Barnaby Joyce struck a secret deal the other day with the Morrison Government to elevate Keith Pitt back into Cabinet and bring the Resources portfolio back into the Cabinet of the Commonwealth of Australia.
But let’s remember how it fell out of Cabinet: the reason the Resources portfolio and Keith Pitt was not in Cabinet was because of votes and a leadership squabble. And now, there’s a secret deal to reach some kind of support for some kind of process to support Morrison’s net zero emissions policy and, surprise surprise, the beneficiary of this is Keith Pitt.
Barnaby giveth and Barnaby taketh away.
It is the ultimate irony that Keith Pitt is now back in Cabinet as Resources Minister when he himself does not support net zero emissions. He does not support the resources jobs, the jobs right throughout regional Australia that are provided by the resources industry, which itself is spending billions of dollars to reach net zero emissions. Every single day in this country, the resources sector – right from the leadership of the sector to the millions of workers around this country – they are working actively to net zero emissions by 2050. Meanwhile, the Resources Minister – the Minister purporting to represent that industry – does not support their climate ambitions.
How can it be that Keith Pitt remains Resources Minister when he does not support the sector and its ambitions to reach net zero emissions? The Nationals fail to act in the national interest – instead they act in the interest of the Nationals. The only resources job the Nationals want to protect is Keith Pitt’s.
JOURNALIST: Is there anxiety among workers in the resources industry about what the transition will mean for their jobs?
KING: I think there’s absolutely exasperation across the industry – workers, leadership, executives – that they’ve got a Government that won’t lead in net zero emissions case, they just leave it for someone else to do. The Government just shrugs off its responsibility, always, one hundred per cent of the time, to the private sector. And the private sector, in this case the Resources industry, has taken up the mantle: they’ve worked hard. They’ve been developing policies, quite frankly for years, to reach net zero while also expanding their industry and making sure those jobs continue to exist. No help from the Government and certainly no help from the Nationals.
JOURNALIST: But have you heard from workers that they are worried about whether they will have a job in 10 years’ time?
KING: I think the whole industry knows things are changing, and that’s why it’s a very good thing that the industry’s taken it upon itself to move with global change. They react to global change, they have to, and workers know this. They’re not silly – they read the papers, they see the news, they know the global economy is changing so that it can reach net zero emissions. So, I don’t get feedback from workers that they think they’re going to be out of a job; I get feedback from workers saying ‘What’s going on? Where’s the Government in all this? Why are they leaving us to try and sort it all out?’ That’s what I hear from workers in the resources industry.
JOURNALIST: How long do you think Australia’s coal industry has a future?
KING: Let’s be clear – the coal industry of Australia is a traditional industry, it has served the people of Australia, it has built the east coast economy over hundreds of years, ever since white settlement of this country. It’s a very important industry. It sustains villages and communities right up that eastern coast. And what the workers there know and companies there know is that, as a major export industry, its continuance depends on its customers and who buys it. And so, they need to work with their customers to try and decarbonise what is a high emitting fuel source, and that is what they are doing and what they are working towards. We know that many industries don’t last forever, but the coal industry will last for a long time into the future.
JOURNALIST: Demand for our exports is still at a record high. When do you see that dropping off?
KING: It’s difficult to tell, it’s hard to have a crystal ball and to pick some kind of exact date. But I would expect that given that demand and given the quality of the coal and, as you say, the demand for it around the world, it will last for decades to come.
JOURNALIST: Do you support Labor taking a higher 2030 target to the next election than you did last time around, so higher than forty-five per cent?
KING: We are waiting, and we’ll wait to see what happens at the upcoming COP conference. It’s really up for the Government to set their target on this.
JOURNALIST: We already know that countries around the world are taking higher targets to 2030 to Glasgow – we heard yesterday in Estimates that 74 countries are taking a higher target. Some countries have pledged to cut emissions by fifty per cent. Do you think that that’s around the ballpark of what will come out of Glasgow and an appropriate target for 2030?
KING: Look, I’m not going to predict what comes out of Glasgow. It’s going to be a challenging conference, I think everyone accepts that. We heard Prime Minister Johnson earlier today speak about the challenges that the conference faces. This is a terrifically important global shift. I’m not going to predict what is the outcome of COP, but I do certainly hope that it’s a positive outcome for the world and the need to address climate change and reduce increasing temperatures. But it really is up to the Government to take a leadership role for the country and set those targets and take them to this international conference to demonstrate that Australia is doing the hard yards in relation to getting to net zero emissions.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of what the Nationals have managed to extract in this deal on net zero by 2050, including that review mechanism by the Productivity Commission every five years – do you think it’s a good idea?
KING: This is a secret deal. We know bits and pieces; we don’t know much at all really. So firstly, I’d say how about the Nationals and the Government let the Australian people know what this deal is?
The most remarkable part of this deal is that the Nationals have extracted a Cabinet position they themselves lost, and have put into that Cabinet position a Resources Minister that does not support net zero emissions and does not support the Resources sector itself trying to reach net zero emissions by 2050. So, I think that’s an impossible and outrageous situation, yet that is the flagship part of this deal.
The review process, that sounds sensible, but I note governments have financial review processes all the time – whether its MYEFO or the annual Budget. And having the Productivity Commission look at the effects on regional areas seems a relatively harmless thing to do – why wouldn’t you? Makes sense to me.
JOURNALIST: Hearing the Prime Minister’s language on 2030 in the past couple of weeks, it’s clear that they’re not taking a higher target to the next election. Do you think if Labor does, that you could face the same scare campaign you did last time around in 2019 around 2030?
KING: Well, there is no scare campaign the Scott Morrison has seen and doesn’t like and won’t use – there’s no doubt about that – whether it’s around interim targets or anything else for that matter. I think the Government’s lack of climate ambitions is really what will be put the Australian people, that you can’t trust them to act on climate change and deliver net zero emission for 2050.
Thank you all, thanks.