TRANSCRIPT - TELEVISION INTERVIEW - ABC NEWS - THURSDAY, 23 MAY 2019
THURSDAY, 23 MAY 2019
SUBJECT/S: LABOR LEADERSHIP; ADANI CAMPAIGN
PATRICIA KARVELAS (HOST): Thanks for coming on the show Tony.
TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: Hi Patricia.
KARVELAS: So, who do you want to see as the Deputy Leader now that it seems quite clear Anthony Albanese will be the Labor Leader?
BURKE: OK, before I do, given it is my first interview, I should just briefly anyway, congratulate the government on their return and acknowledge that we've always got to work on the basis that the Australian people get it right. So, we've got to do a whole lot of listening as a result of the outcome on the weekend and I've got the deepest respect for Bill Shorten, for Tanya Plibersek, for Chris Bowen, in the way the three of them really led a whole lot of the policy debate but the outcome that we had is what we have to deal with. I think all we can do on that score is congratulate the government and move on.
You've asked me directly about the Deputy Leadership. Certainly, Richard Marles has been calling people for quite some time on this and wasn't trying to be an aspirant for the leadership but was wanting to be Deputy. I don't know how that is in terms of other people who are hitting the phones as well. Certainly, one of the things that will be really important is that we have a Deputy of the sort of calibre that we had when Tanya Plibersek was in the role, when you've got somebody who, if the leader is having a hard day, a hard week or whatever, somebody who really has that capacity to hold the whole party together. We've had six years of really good stability and as different people put themselves forward, making sure we get a Deputy Leader who fits that score is going to be really important. Because one of our great strengths, no matter what went wrong in the campaign, our unity was an absolute strength.
KARVELAS: Look, I want to talk about what went wrong but just on this issue, because it is the big issue still outstanding, do you think the Deputy Leader should be a woman?
BURKE: I think across the senior positions in the Labor party, you need to make sure that you have true representation of Australia. That means you want to have roughly equal numbers of men and women across the senior positions, you want to make sure you have diversity of background, you want to make sure you have diversity of heritage. All of those issues, effectively make sure that you have a front bench that part of it being in touch is the mere fact that it’s life experiences as close as possible match that of the rest of the country. Something that the government didn't quite deliver on for themselves but that is a broader discussion than specific to the Deputy Leader.
KARVELAS: Tony Burke, if you had to pick one thing that cost you the election, what is it?
BURKE: One thing? I'll have a go but I'll let you know as well, I'm still digesting it all and trying to make sure that we're very much listening respectfully to the Australian people as they tell us what they think we got wrong. It is true that on the polling booths the number of times, and in the streets in the days leading up, the number of times you had to talk to somebody about something that was not our policy was like I have never seen before. I spent more time fielding complaints about Labor's death tax that didn't exist than I did about any of our actual taxation policies. When people wanted to complain about negative gearing policy, it was without exception people complaining on the basis they believed we were going to stop them from negatively gearing a property that they already had and were already negatively gearing, which was not our policy. And so there is no doubt that we had a massive problem in dealing with all of the range of, let's call them misconceptions, to use the politest term I can think of, of Labor. I don't think it is good enough for us just to say they were lies, the Liberal Party spread them, let's therefore get angry about it. It’s happened. There is a whole lot of people we wanted to protect and look after who we can't because we are in opposition again and we have to think through, okay, what had we done that allowed those sorts of views of us to become so widespread?
Now, part of that may well be the concept that we simply had too many different strategies, too many policies for people to keep track of and when everything is that busy, if a lie gets ahead of steam or a misconception gets ahead of steam, then you don't have the space to be comprehensively refuting it. Now, I don't want out of that for us to get a view that therefore Labor should stand for less. But in terms of policy design, we have to be in a situation where people can be making judgements purely on what we have decided our policies are. And there is no doubt, there is no doubt at all that a big part of what we were dealing with, just with the anecdotes that I've personally experienced with people and that my colleagues have, that we spent a large part of our time trying to explain to people that what they had heard, what they had read, what they had believed, was a policy that in fact had nothing to do with what we were proposing.
KARVELAS: Let’s talk about climate policy. Because I know that you think that Labor needs a rethink on its climate change policies. Do you think it is time for Labor to abandon a market mechanism?
BURKE: When we work through the policy review, I have got a really strong view that we're reviewing policies, we're not reviewing values. What I mean by that is with respect to climate change policy, the government has dared us to say, "your targets were too high, that's what you should abandon". The principle that we determine targets based on what the science says, we must not shift from. So if there is going to be any room for compromise, the compromise has to be in what the method is to deal with that. Because, the planet is not going to turn up and say, “hey, let’s have a compromise, there will be less climate change and we'll cut a deal.” The environment when it negotiates back is completely uncompromising. We have to keep the same starting point that we have to respect the science and listen to the science of climate change and that needs to drive our emissions targets.
Once we’ve dealt with that, and we then deal with the mechanism, we've got to work our way through the fact that for 12 years now the different mechanisms we have put forward, the Australian people, or the Parliament or whatever, have ultimately said no to. As a result of that, Australia is in a worse position than we would have been if we got our original policy through 12 years ago. Australia is less prepared for the future. Our pollution is higher. That means that the, and sorry, the other political problem we had with these market mechanisms has been because you are doing what business has asked for, which is to say, "okay, here is the most efficient method. You can make a whole series of decisions as to how you implement it.” That is why you then can't have a neat answer to the question ‘what is the total cost to the economy?’ Because you’ve given all of those variables across to business.
Now, I don't have a fixed view on what the alternative is, but effectively both the right and in some ways the environmental movement have shifted to a direct action model. Every economic theory will tell you it is less efficient and it is less efficient. But we are heading down the path now, once we get to the end of this next term, we will have had inaction for the last 15 years and that is not counting the 12 years that the Howard Government did nothing. I believe on the two things, theres the climate part, the scientific part that you start with, and then the economic mechanism that you employ. Any compromise that happens has to be on the mechanism, not on whether or not you respect the science.
KARVELAS: So, essentially something like what the government is doing, direct action, but you think more of it, to reduce - more ambitious emissions, essentially?
BURKE: I’m not going to say specifically their policy design, I think there are a series of problems with their design and things like that. But i think we now need to be at the table of working through what are the other ways of reaching targets beyond simply saying we'll have a market mechanism. Because while I still believe it is the most efficient policy, every academic will tell you it is the most efficient policy. You sit down and look at it, business knows it is the most efficient policy. But you have got to a point and say it’s not happening and then you have either one of two worlds. Either you say to the Australian people we’re not listening back to you and we’re not going to compromise at all. Or you compromise on the science, and I think that would be unthinkable.
KARVELAS: So did Labor get it wrong on Adani then? And did that cost you the election then, in Queensland particularly?
BURKE: Look, as you know, if we had won government today I would be the Environment Minister, I would be finding out exactly what on earth Melissa Price did before we went into caretaker. She never gave an interview the whole election campaign to explain what she had done. My commitment was always that on environmental approvals you always need to apply the law. In terms of emissions targets, there is an international agreement that says your emissions targets are based on emissions that actually occur within your country, not on minerals that are dug up. The fugitive emissions that occur as a result of that get counted in your country. But if the emissions ultimately occur after something has been exported it gets counted against that country. That is the international system. The challenge with Adani for me was always not being able to get to the bottom of whether or not the underground water approvals had been done properly. To this day, I don't know. Certainly, what Melissa Price had claimed in her statement didn't match what CSIRO later said their position had been. With a Minister, who, she is still in office right now, and Scott Morrison made an election commitment she would be keeping the portfolio. I don't have a clue what she did. So...
KARVELAS: Sure, but the message on Adani cost your job, cost you votes because you didn’t make the case about jobs did you?
BURKE: The challenge here though, and this is where the dare was always from either side of the Adani debate, was to say, give a commitment about what you will do about environmental approvals. Sorry, but to do that is unlawful. That was the ask. The ask was either guarantee your Environment Minister will give approval of this or guarantee they won’t. In either case, if we had won and then done that it would have gone straight to the High Court and whatever we had done would have been thrown out.
KARVELAS: Isn’t that what Annastacia Palaszczuk’s doing now though?
BURKE: It was a ridiculous demand. Sorry, I’ll get to that but the demand there that we break the law was always an absurd one. And there are some times when you say we need to look at the politics and it is a reasonable call, but not when it comes to disregarding what is in fact a legal demand on a Minister. You've raised with the comments that Annastacia made yesterday, Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Premier of Queensland. What I've read of what she said is that she has had a frustration with the time lines and said a decision needs to be made. If you have a look at the changes we were putting forward to environmental law, I'm on the record for about a decade now saying we need to keep high environmental standards but we do have problems with delays in decision-making. The beginnings of these particular approvals have been dragging on for six or seven years now and I do think it is reasonable to say a decision should be made.
I don't believe thresholds should be lowered but I will never support a system where, let me put it in a different way. It is better for the environment and business if people have early warning as to whether something is going to get over the line. No-one benefits if something is going to ultimately be rejected, no one benefits for it being dragged out for six years before the eventual rejection comes. That’s just wasted money and it’s bad for Australia. Similarly, if it is going to to be approved anyway then you are better off getting your approvals in earlier and get the job started. So when the Premier talks about the problems with delays, I think thats a very legitimate frustration. I don’t believe at any point standards should be lowered as a result of that.
KARVELAS: Just briefly, you’re backing Anthony Albanese to be the Labor Leader, did you consider having a run yourself? And are you prepared to put your hand up for Deputy Leader?
BURKE: I won't be running for either of the two positions. I live in the seat next door to Albo and I think it would be a stretch when we share suburbs in our boundaries to say they are the two people taking the role within the Labor Party. When I look at where we lost and the areas that turned against us in big ways, then I don't think we've got anyone better than Anthony Albanese to be able to speak to those people. I also think he's been around a long time and a lot of people say, "Yeah, but don't you want change or generational change?" You learn things in this job as you go. Albo is a better politician now and will a better Prime Minister now than he even would have been when he first contested six years ago. You do learn as you listen to people, as you respect people and as you work these issues through. And I think he will be terrific. So, I spoke to him on Saturday night, on the Saturday night when it was clear that we'd lost and I sounded him out and it was pretty soon after that that I made clear if you put yourself forward I would be supporting you.
KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese today echoed something that Chris Bowen said a couple of days ago, that Labor needs to show more respect to people of faith. Your electorate has also got lots of migrant faith groups in it. What’s your feedback from them and do you think that Labor needs better answers for these people?
BURKE: Yeah we do. We do. It is a real problem that there has been a successful campaign that has allowed a lot people to view issues of faith as effectively only being about examples of intolerance, and that is what the religious people want. And rhetoric has often fallen in and allowed people to think that somehow it was Labor's view. The people in my community and people of faith are passionate about a whole range of issues. And they also will feel, at different points, that they are ridiculed, that they are vilified for their faith, and they feel that pressure and that can be real.
If someone is abused on public transport because - and it's ‘swear word’ Arab or they are abused on public transport and it’s ‘swear word’ Christian or ‘swear word’ Jew or ‘swear word’ Muslim all of those things are equally offensive. We have been very good at standing up when people have felt they were being ridiculed in any way for their race but we haven't sent the same messages and the principle is identical if you are receiving that sort of hatred for your faith. We've got a way to go I think in making those positions clear. And ultimately, if you start with the view that basically people want to be able to get on with their lives, people want to be able to mind their own business, people don't want to be hassled by each other, a whole lot of the principles that we have been running for a very long time about not being prejudiced against because of your race, because of who you love, because of who you are, because of your faith, they all fit. They all fit in that same mantra and we need to be able to explain that far more effectively.
KARVELAS: Tony Burke, thank you for coming on the program.
BURKE: Great to talk to you Patricia.