Press Conference - Parliament House, Canberra

03 Aug 2022
Prime Minister, Minister for Climate Change and Energy
Climate change; Labor’s 43 per cent emissions reduction target; safeguards mechanism; Voice to Parliament

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Thank you for joining me again today. On May 21, Australians voted for action on climate change. They voted for the Australian Labor Government’s plan, which is a 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030, for the national energy market to be 82 per cent renewables by 2030. And they voted for the fully costed modelling that we had. With 604,000 new jobs created, five out of every six of them in regional Australia. Not only did we receive the mandate in May, when we signed the increase for our National Determined Contribution to submit to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, we had extensive support. We had the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, the group that represents Australia's manufacturers, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the National Farmers’ Federation, the Clean Energy Council, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Greenpeace. They have all said that this bill should be passed. I am very confident that it will be passed through the House of Representatives and through the Senate. This is an opportunity to end the climate wars, if the Coalition decide to break with their rhetoric and actually come to the table and listen to the business community who are saying that what we need is investment certainty. We need investment certainty to get that investment in clean and cheap energy, which they know, and indeed the Coalition knows, is the cheapest form of new energy going forward. This is an opportunity for the whole of the Parliament to be on the right side of history, to put aside the conflict and the arguments that came around with 22 different energy policies, not one of them implemented. And give support to the Government’s mandate that we received in May, for the one policy that we took to the election, the one policy that we will implement.

CHRIS BOWEN, MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE & ENERGY: Thank you, Prime Minister. It is a good day for Australia. A good day for our economy, a good day for the future. The climate wars may or may not be over, but they are certainly in retreat under this Government. We sought the mandate from the Australian people and we are delivering on that mandate. As the Prime Minister said, it is now clear that our legislation will pass the Parliament. The Prime Minister and I were very clear. We do not need this legislation to get on with the agenda. But we wanted the legislation to send the message to the world that Australia is open for business when it comes to renewable energy. We want to provide the policy certainty and the framework for that investment. And that is exactly what this legislation will do. My message today is particularly for Australians in the regions. The Illawarra, and the Hunter Valley. In Gladstone and Central Queensland. In Portland and the Latrobe Valley. This is for you. You powered Australia for so long, and you will powered Australia into the future with renewable energy that will create thousands of jobs going forward. They will be, these regions, at the centrepiece of Australia being a renewable energy powerhouse under the Albanese Government. And this is a big step forward in making that vision a reality.

JOURNALIST: What specific undertakings would you give the Greens and crossbench MPs in relation to a possible climate trigger in the EPBC Act review and also the safeguard mechanism?

PRIME MINISTER: None with regard to the EPBC act, there has been no cross-discussion about the legislation. What we have is a series of amendments and we will receive support where they are consistent with the policy that we took to the election. Where they are not consistent, we won't vote for it. We made our position very clear, there will be some amendments passed in the House of Representatives that are sensible, that are consistent with our position. But we also said the whole way through that the idea that you come up with a debate about what figures are higher is something we won't going to engage with. Once you do that, you move away from what we did. And what we did prior to the December announcement last year was workout good policy first, and then get Reputex to model what the outcome would be.

JOURNALIST: You have not been a big fan of the Greens over your political life. Do you give Adam Bandt any credit on this occasion for putting the good before the perfect and compromise dropping to his demands unlike his predecessors?

PRIME MINISTER: I give everyone who is prepared to vote for moving forward, even though it is not everything they would want, credit for doing so. The crossbenchers, the independents, and others have been prepared to, very clearly, as Adam Bandt has made clear, not get everything that he wants, not get a whole thing that they want. We were very clear, and I think this was helped by the fact that we signed the NDC, we made it clear that was our position, we could live with the legislation being passed or not being passed. What the legislation being passed does is to lock in, as we said clearly, this is a floor, not a ceiling. So, we lock in progress. And that is important.

MINISTER BOWEN: We had good conversations across the Parliament, with people of goodwill. As we kept saying, if people want to work with the Government in good will and good faith we will do the same. Some people have made themselves irrelevant to that process, some people have completely ruled themselves out of any discussions with the Government. That is up to them. Others, the crossbench, have factored themselves into the conversation, as the Prime Minister has said, and it has been very public where there were suggestions which could clarify, make explicit and improve the bill and keep the mandate, all of these. Any suggestions not keeping with the mandate are not considered.

JOURNALIST: Will you be open to negotiating a climate trigger, particularly within the EPBC Act, given that the Greens and David Pocock in the Senate have already mentioned they wanted to see that happen?

PRIME MINISTER: We are dealing with today's legislation. It is pretty significant. The Parliament is about to, after a decade of inaction and denial and delay, move forward. The Coalition have chosen once again to engage, they seem obsessed by nuclear reactors, but are ignoring the biggest nuclear reactor of all. It is up there. The sun. Solar power, they are ignoring. They are ignoring the future, they are stuck in the past, they are frozen in time while the world warms around them. We will not be held hostage to that behaviour. We will continue to advance our agenda. And what I have said is that Australians have conflict fatigue. They want people of goodwill to work together. We will be working together on implementing the agenda to which we were elected.

JOURNALIST: The Greens Leader, Adam Bandt, is saying today they will endeavour in using the safeguard mechanism to stop new coal and gas projects. Is that what you will do with the safeguard mechanism?

PRIME MINISTER: No. In a word. Chris can go through it.

MINISTER BOWEN: The safeguards mechanism policy that we took to the election is a safeguards mechanism policy we will implement. Absolutely. Without question. Without alteration. We said we will take the safeguards mechanism architecture and put it to use, to work to see the facilities on a trajectory to net zero, that is exactly what we will do. Hang on, I haven't finished his answer. I was still going.

PRIME MINISTER: I’ll give you the big tip again. Yelling out doesn’t mean you get up in the queue. Andrew was very polite. And he got bumped up the queue.

MINISTER BOWEN: As I was saying, we'll be releasing a discussion paper on the detailed design mechanism on the safeguard mechanism in August, probably. That will be up for consultation. The Greens have indicated they will probably have feedback on that. And we, just like anybody else in Parliament, are happy to receive feedback from across the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Despite supporting the bill, Adam Bandt says your Government is the biggest obstacle to stronger action on climate change. That is a pretty strong criticism. How do you respond to that and will you prove him wrong?

PRIME MINISTER: It's a Labor bill. It is not a Greens bill. I am Leader of the Labor Party. We have an agenda that we will implement, consistent with the principles that I have always held. I'm not surprised at some of the rhetorical position, but I will leave that to others. Today is a day where I want to acknowledge that, in spite of some of that rhetorical position, people have indicated they are prepared to vote for the legislation even after their amendments are not successful. I welcome that.

JOURNALIST: The Government has mounted an economic case against nuclear energy. What would be the problem with legalising the source and leaving it up to the market to decide whether it can be viable and whether those innovations can be part of the mix?

PRIME MINISTER: The market has decided. There is no one coming forward. Nor has there been every time there has been reviews and nuclear energy and every time the Coalition are in Government, during the Howard era we had it, and then at the beginning of the Abbott era. Every time, no one is prepared to come forward and say, ‘I want to spend their money, or my shareholders money on this’, because it will take a long time in terms of the investment, at least a decade. It will not solve today's energy crisis. And if you want to see how fast Coalition members can run, go into a Coalition Party room and ask them who wants a nuclear power station in their electorate. And watch them is got out the door.

JOURNALIST: Something you said earlier today about the Voice, about the responsibility of the media in terms of how we report it, the amplification of people, perhaps who say we need more detail otherwise we cannot vote for it. Isn’t the problem here that we actually have almost too much detail, a lot of detail? The Calma-Langton Review, the Dodson inquiry, the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. And essentially, there is a flood, not a vacuum. When will you put some more meat on the bones in terms of how this proceeds?

PRIME MINISTER: What I want to do is give people the space to walk on this journey. That is what I'm doing very consciously. And I'm saying what I'm doing. Just like I said in 2019 what our plan was for the 2022 election. And we did what we said we would do. Just like in Government we are doing what we said we would do at that election. Here, I wanted to give people the space to consider the question that has been put out the and the three-point constitutional change which is proposed, which would come after of course a preamble which recognises Indigenous people in the Constitution. What I just want to do is get ahead of the debate to the point where people can find one element they disagree with. I respect people having different views on this. I want a national conversation. Though, what I did on Saturday was provide a framework for the conversation to enable it to move forward. When we have, as you are aware, we will need a referendum legislation has to occur for that to advance, there will be a debate in the Parliament as well. Inevitably, as part of that debate, there will be discussion about the extensive work of Marcia Langton and Tom Calma, extensive debate, about what a Voice to Parliament might look like in terms of regional structures and a particular model been put forward by them that envisages a national model but also with equal representation of male and female representatives. Particular quarantining of representation to ensure remote communities are represented and a regional structure as well. I welcome the debate that will occur. That will be advanced during the legislative debate. It will determine, when it is clearer, what an appropriate date for a referendum should be. I make this point. I want the debate to be very clear about what will be put to the Australian people, which I proposed with supporters. They are not a word and I said that on Saturday. They are words that have been worked up by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of goodwill. Which is – Do you support an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice being recognised in the Constitution. Sorry guys, I have to go to Question Time.