TRANSCRIPT: Interview ABC RN Drive with Patricia Karvelas


SUBJECT/S: Clean Energy Target, Dutton’s citizenship changes.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Labor has been offering a bipartisan olive branch on energy to end the climate wars, the energy wars. So I wonder if the offer is still there. Tony Burke is the manager of opposition business he is in our studio in Parliament House, Tony Burke welcome.  

TONY BURKE: Good to be back Patricia. 

KARVELAS: So are we going to see the bipartisanship you’ve offered on the energy guarantee?

BURKE: We still don’t know exactly what we’re dealing with. So we used question time today, the Government had a go at saying ‘look thats not much of an attack’. Our objective today was to find out what it is they have actually announced. It is in peoples interests if we can get to a policy that reduced emissions, provides reliability and downward pressure on prices. That’s a good outcome and the best way to get there is if there is bipartisan support on the basis that that’s what you need to be able to really drive investment. So we’re not rejecting it out of hand. But there is a whole lot of detail on this that we just don't know. I actually listened on the app to the Barnaby Joyce interview you did a little bit earlier thinking I might learn something but I heard more about what he was alleging Labor’s policies to be than what the Government’s are. There’s basic information that we need to be able to work this through. We need to be able to have the modelling. Now in the press conference today they said they actually haven't done any modelling. For something that has an economy wide impact you normally would ask to have a look at the regulation impact statement because that gives you that sort of information. We found out in question time they haven’t done that either. So fundamental information that we need so that we can sit down with stakeholders and sit down with business and say we know what all the rhetorical lines are but what difference will this actually make in practice. That’s information we don't have and we’re certainly not closing our minds to it in advance of getting that information. 

KARVELAS: So you’re keeping an open mind? Alan Finkel who is the chief scientist, who was the one that recommended the Clean Energy Target has talked. He says the plan is credible and he gave measured support earlier this afternoon. Does that help convince you?

BURKE: Well he also said that he doesn't have access to the modelling himself either. You've got to remember when Alan FInkel came out with the Clean Energy Target, that was not our preferred option. We’d gone to the election with an emissions intensity scheme which within the last 12 months we had a period when Malcolm Turnbull told us he supported that. When he was supporting a Clean Energy Target we said okay let’s see if there is a way of doing that. But I think your interview with Barnaby Joyce a few minutes ago really said it all that the Government intact does not want bipartisan support on this. The Government does not want to have an agreement because their principal concern is not what happens with pollution, is not what happens with people’s power bills, it’s that they just want to have a fight here in Canberra. Ive got to say, as an ambition, that really does leave everyone short. We do have very different objectives in terms of how much pollution we believe needs to be cut compared between us and the Government. But you can sometimes deal with those differences through the same mechanism you could have through a clean energy target, you could have through an emissions intensity or an emissions trading scheme. Whether you can do that through this we don't yet know. When the foreign Minister Julie Bishop on this station this morning by Fran Kelly, I think it was Fran Kelly it might have been AM, I heard the interview this morning…

KARVELAS: Julie Bishop did speak to Fran Kelly this morning correct. Definitely Fran. 

BURKE: I was driving in. When she was interviewed by Fran this morning she didn't know whether legislation was required. These sorts of pieces of information have come out in dribs and drabs during the day. We still don't have what we need. Some of what’s come out has turned out to be wrong. The Prime Minister in question time today told people their power bills will go down by more than $100 a year. Within half an hour we were seeing it reported that that might only be $25 a year. After 5 years in Government, if all they are going to do with power bills is 50c a week, you’ve really got to wonder how excited you can get about this. 

KARVELAS: You say that Julie Bishop couldn't articulate whether they would need legislation. Today that has been articulated. The 26% reduction in emissions form the electricity sector will have to be legislated. Will Labor support this so that the Government can meet the Paris agreement that we’ve signed up to? 

BURKE: Well it’s not so that they can meet [the Paris agreement]. What they’ve proposed today it’s still not clear whether the policy has the impact of reducing renewables or increasing renewables. It’s not clear how this policy today interacts with business as usual. Whether we end up with a worse outcome compared to business as usual or an improved outcome. That’s the sort of information you get from the modelling because legislating a target may well be meaningless if the mechanism makes it impossible to actually get there and I really don't think Malcolm Turnbull is particularly focussed on what might come back to him 2030. For the different ambitions that Prime Ministers have in a job to stay there forever, I don't think he's probably suspecting that he will be there in 2030. So we need to be able to look through all of this but obviously if Labor were in Government the emissions target being legislated would not be 26% or 28% by 2030 we’d be talking about 45% and that is based quite specifically on the advice that’s been given by the climate change authority. 

KARVELAS: On citizenship the Government’s changes to citizenship laws; adopting Australian values, stronger English requirements for those tests, waiting longer to become a citizen. That’s just a bit of a reminder course for people who don't remember that particular bill. They don't look like they are going to pass the Senate but there are some parts of the bill that you supported. Would you support them if they were reintroduced individually? 

BURKE: What I said at the time we were opposing the bill as a whole in particular because of the delay that will mean some people wait more than a decade until they make a commitment to Australia and the university level English language test. But I did acknowledge there were about 30 different provisions in there and some of them may well have merit. We would look at them with fresh eyes if they come back in separate legislation. But the starting point of the legislation was just, from our perspective, so offensive and so different to what is modern, multicultural Australia that we decided we would just reject the current bill outright. So there will be other measures, some of them are quite procedural, some of them on closer examination may have problems. So we’re not giving a blank cheque to everything else in the bill. But we have said we will have a look at that if it comes back in separate legislation. We wont know until tomorrow. If the Government brings it on it’ll come for a vote. If they don’t bring it on then it gets wiped from the notice paper altogether. I think if it does get wiped from the notice paper tomorrow there’ll be a lot of people who were eligible under the old citizenship law, which is still technically in place but administratively hasn't been honoured. A lot of people will be putting their citizenship applications in immediately if this gets knocked back in the Senate. 

KARVELAS: Tony Burke thanks for your time. 

BURKE: Great to be back

Tony Burke