SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
ABC RADIO MELBOURNE DRIVE
WEDNESDAY, 10 NOVEMBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Climate Change; Government’s low emissions technology fund; electric vehicles; Labor’s policy agenda; Carbon capture and storage; National Anti-Corruption Commission; Victoria’s pandemic legislation.
RAF EPSTEIN: Joining us in the studio is Mark Dreyfus. He is the Shadow Attorney-General. He's the Labor MP for the South-East Melbourne Seat of Isaacs and when Labor was in Government had a role in the climate change portfolio. Mark Dreyfus thanks for coming in.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Very good to be with you Raf.
EPSTEIN: Policy is important, but so is language. Language is crucial. When Scott Morrison says "can do capitalism not don't do governments" that has appeal doesn't it? We don't want to be told all the time what to do?
DREYFUS: More meaningless spin from the advertising guy. And I just don't think it cuts it. People have come to understand that Mr Morrison is all about these slogans and never actually produces anything.
EPSTEIN: But you've got to engage with him. Like, when he's for freedom and Labor's for lockdowns, people who are frustrated by lockdowns, or might even have agreed with them but didn't like them, that works. You have to counter it if you think he's wrong don't you?
DREYFUS: And sometimes he uses nonsensical slogans like "it's not a race" when it always was a race to get vaccinated. And because of his abject failure to get vaccines to Australia we had a lockdown in this city, the sixth lockdown that we should never have had, and I hope every single listener keeps that in their minds when they go to the next election.
EPSTEIN: Are people going to remember that?
DREYFUS: I hope so because it's Mr. Morrison's fault that we've had this lockdown now. That's his slogan. Keep that in mind that this is the guy that said "I don't hold a hose mate" when he lied about going to Hawaii for a holiday during the bushfires. This is the guy that tried to talk nonsense during the last campaign and tell us in the last election campaign that electric cars were going to ruin the weekend. For goodness sake Raf, we've got a Prime Minister at the moment that barely deserves that title. He is a fake and he wants to get away with these meaningless empty slogans when we've got a climate emergency facing the world and it's not going to cut it.
EPSTEIN: I want to come to climate change, and I can't stop you making ad hominem attacks on him, but just at the risk of opening myself up to another spray like that, which is fine, you can respond as you choose, you might say all of those things about the Prime Minister. It worked last time, right? You had comprehensive, significant policy. You used that precise argument last time. It didn't work. Doesn't that worry you?
DREYFUS: Mr Morrison scraped back into office. He's got a one seat majority in the House of Representatives and after the next election Labor will show the people of Australia, in government, what a real climate change policy is.
EPSTEIN: Not too confident when you say in government?
DREYFUS: We're going to win the next election Raf, and that's because ...
EPSTEIN: Doesn't that sound cocky?
DREYFUS: It's not cocky. We need to win the next election, but I am desperate, desperate to win the next election.
EPSTEIN: You just said "we will win".
DREYFUS: I believe we're going to win the next election. Maybe not enough Australians are going to agree with me, but I hope that between now and the next election we will convince the people of Australia that they need a change of government in order to get sensible, coherent, rational policy in this country and an end to lies. Because I think that people in Australia have come to understand that Mr Morrison lies every day. He told the people of Australia at his press conference today, and at his press conference yesterday, not to worry about anything he said in the past about electric vehicles because he didn't mean it.
EPSTEIN: He said that they didn't like your policies. But can I ...
DREYFUS: No, no, no. He denied saying that electric vehicles would ruin the weekend. We need to be real about this and journalists need to hold him to account for his words which do matter and it's not just about slogans.
EPSTEIN: Both yesterday and today, I've been going through the Prime Minister's words and saying what I say did and didn't happen and pointing out facts. I'm happy to stand on my record on that but can I just try and nail down some detail?
EPSTEIN: Chris Bowen's been asked about this a few times. Putting carbon into the ground clearly isn't going to work with a coal-fired power station. Too expensive. On the other hand it clearly can be used as a by-product for some industries that we don't have an alternative for. So why can't Labor say whether or not you want government funds to be invested in carbon capture and storage?
DREYFUS: Because it has scarcely worked anywhere in the world. In the few places where it has worked for a time it's been abandoned because it costs too much and it's not an answer to the problem of climate change.
EPSTEIN: Is that a no? That Labor won't support the change?
DREYFUS: No, it's not a no. We will look at any proposal. We've got a lot of nonsense from Mr Morrison saying that Labor rejects this policy or rejects that technology. None of that is true. People should keep firmly in mind that when Mr Morrison opens his mouth he is lying. When Mr. Morrison describes Labor's policies, he is lying. And we're not going to get anywhere if we conduct a public debate that consists of lies. We need a public debate that is real.
EPSTEIN: Sure. So let's try and keep it real.
DREYFUS: But don't put to me what Mr Scott Morrison says because that's a lie. I'm interested in hearing your view. I'm interested in hearing the views of scientists. I'm interested in hearing the views of people who want to speak rationally about climate change.
EPSTEIN: I want to try to narrow this down.
DREYFUS: I'm not interested in anything Mr Scott Morrison says because he spends his waking hours lying to the people of Australia.
EPSTEIN: I think you've made that point a number of times. Can I just let me ask that question again. You might disagree with a lot that the Prime Minister says. You might accuse him of lying. You choose your words in this political debate, I'm trying to get a solid answer though. Carbon capture and storage is clearly going to play a role. Not maybe a big role, but it's going to play a role. Why can't Labor say yes or no to government funds in that technology?
DREYFUS: We've said that we will not support the use of funds that are set aside for clean energy through the Australian Renewable Energy Authority and through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, both of these being statutory agencies that the Liberals have tried to abolish twice and failed. The funds in those agencies are for clean energy and if the government is saying it wants to divert funds that are already there for clean energy to this carbon capture and storage uses, we have a problem with that. But if it is genuinely new money, then we're prepared to consider particular projects.
DREYFUS: Just as we were in government when we had a comprehensive set of policies that included a fund, Just to remind you the Rudd Government and the Gillard Government had a fund for carbon capture and storage and if it can be pulled off..
DREYFUS: If. It's a big if, and sadly, 20 years on from the first exploratory attempts to have carbon capture and storage it's proved to be not really the solution that we are looking for, for the climate emergency that the planet is facing. So, I'm not rejecting out of hand carbon capture and storage. I am saying that it shouldn't be relied on as an answer to all of Australia's emissions reduction problems.
EPSTEIN: Why not explicitly say Labor will have a higher 2030 target than the government? I know Josh Burns has said that to me, he's a fellow Labor MP of yours here in Melbourne. He said that to me, he said that to Virginia Trioli. A number of people have said Labor will have a higher 2030 emissions target than the Federal Government. Anthony Albanese won't say that.
DREYFUS: I don't think that's right. For many months, we've all been saying that Labor will have..
EPSTEIN: You say you will be more ambitious. But they won't, Anthony Albanese won't explicitly say - and I did ask him this last week - he won't explicitly say "we will have a higher target if the government's target is 28%. We will have a higher target." Why won't you say those words?
DREYFUS: Well, more ambitious I think translates as higher.
EPSTEIN: Same thing?
DREYFUS: I think it's the same thing. And we've made it really clear that going to Glasgow, as Mr Morrison did, with Tony Abbott's 2015 target when world leaders had demanded of Australia that we go with an increased ambition, with a higher target, the contemptuous approach that Mr Morrison took to the climate emergency that the world is facing, was on full display. Disgracefully, embarrassingly, shamefully, for Australia on full display for the whole world and Mr Morrison comes back and pretends that somehow he wasn't disgraced and didn't disgrace our country at Glasgow. He did and we are waiting until Glasgow concludes.
EPSTEIN: Let me ask you that. Why wait? Because while the country's talking about climate change, while the media are talking about Glasgow, Labor doesn't have a policy, isn't that waiting too long?
DREYFUS: It's not right that we don't have a policy.
EPSTEIN: We don't have the detail.
DREYFUS: We've demanded that the government commit to net zero by 2050, something we committed two years ago. We've demanded that and finally, finally, the National Party, Mr. Joyce...
EPSTEIN: I don't want you to talk about the Coalition right now. You've had a real go. That is fair enough. But why not give us more detail now?
DREYFUS: More detail is coming and all of my colleagues have made it clear - Mr Albanese, Mr Bowen and Mr Conroy, the junior climate shadow - have all made this clear in recent interviews as well. We are going to have detailed policy well in time before the next election. We are not in a position to implement any of that policy until after the next election when I hope we will be the government and we desperately need to be the government because that's the way to get climate action in this country. That detailed set of policies will be unfolded in good time. It is perfectly proper for Labor to say let's wait and see what the conclusion of Glasgow is. Let's wait and see what the rest of the world gets to, and expects of, the government of Australia at the conclusion of the Glasgow conference which is going to be this next weekend and let's see the modelling that the government has relied on.
EPSTEIN: I'd like to see the modelling too.
DREYFUS: We would all like to see the modelling. Not only is the Opposition of this country entitled to see the Government's modelling, the people of Australia are entitled to see the Government's modelling and why Mr Morrison won't reveal it, I don't know.
EPSTEIN: He said it's coming soon.
DREYFUS: Well, it's maybe still being produced or written.
EPSTEIN: We don't know.
DREYFUS: We don't know.
EPSTEIN: Mark Dreyfus is with us. Shadow Attorney-General, you're a QC, so if I can just ask you two legal questions - one about your portfolio and one about some stuff here in Victoria. I know you don't think the Government's corruption body is good enough. Let's assume the Government does what they say. They're going to introduce some legislation with an idea. Do you oppose whatever they propose and end up with nothing or do you say yes, and we'll improve it if we win government?
DREYFUS: Sadly, it's already too late for Australia to have an anti-corruption commission.
EPSTEIN: Sure, but you might get a chance to vote in the Parliament.
DREYFUS: Most unlikely, because the Government, after three years, three years on from their promise to give Australia a national anti-corruption commission, they have produced no legislation. There isn't a bill in the Parliament. If a bill does arrive in the Parliament in the last two sitting weeks of the year commencing on the 22nd of November it will go to a Parliamentary committee for inquiry and that's entirely appropriate. All pieces of complex legislation get sent to an inquiry.
EPSTEIN: In principle, would you vote, say, half of something is better than nothing?
DREYFUS: It won't be established before the next election, so this is entirely academic. But we will judge anything the Government produces against our already published clear principles as to what a powerful, independent national anti-corruption commission should look like. The model that they have spoken of, that Mr Morrison and his former failed Attorney-General, Mr Porter, the model that they were speaking of, was wholly inadequate for a whole range of reasons.
EPSTEIN: But I am asking a specific detailed question. You wouldn't say yes to something because half of what you want is better than nothing? If you get a chance to vote in Parliament will you vote yes to whatever the Coalition proposes or not?
DREYFUS: The eminent Australian lawyer Stephen Charles, former Court of Appeal Judge, has repeatedly described the Morrison/Porter model as a sham, as worse than nothing. He did so as recently as yesterday.
EPSTEIN: And he said similar things to Virginia Trioli recently.
DREYFUS: He did, and in a very spirited, a very spirited op ed. Now he's not alone. Retired judges, all bodies that are interested in transparency and accountability in this country, and, dare I say it, I and my colleagues in the Australian Labor Party, have said that the Government's model is wholly inadequate. Why would we support something that is wholly inadequate?
EPSTEIN: The pandemic legislation Dan Andrews wants to introduce, some significant lawyers say it's a step too far. Do you think the Government, State Government's got that right?
DREYFUS: The model that they've produced has more accountability mechanisms in it than the like legislation that already exists in New South Wales.
EPSTEIN: So, better than New South Wales in your opinion?
DREYFUS: Yes. There are more safeguards than is already in place in New South Wales and I support the idea of having an elected minister in charge of the decision-making. That gives you, by definition, more accountability.
EPSTEIN: Thanks for your time.
DREYFUS: Thanks very much Raf.