SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
ABC MELBOURNE MORNINGS WITH VIRGINIA TRIOLI
WEDNESDAY, 11 NOVEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Climate change; Shadow Ministry; Four Corners Program.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Mark Dreyfus is joining you right now. He's the Shadow Attorney-General, and according to dispatches published this morning, was right in the thick of the argument yesterday. Mark Dreyfus good to talk to you. Good morning.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good morning Virginia.
TRIOLI: Why were you yelling at Joel Fitzgibbon in the Caucus meeting yesterday?
DREYFUS: I'm not going to discuss what happened in the Shadow Cabinet Virginia. I can assure you and all your listeners that there wasn't any yelling.
TRIOLI: But there's a quote here in the paper that that you intervened and called Mr Fitzgibbon a disgrace and that Joel Fitzgibbon replied ‘shut up, you idiot, you just assured me I'm on the right path.’ Is that a misquote?
DREYFUS: I'm not going to discuss what happened in Shadow Cabinet. But let's talk about Joel Fitzgibbon's views. I accept that Joel has strongly held views on climate. I just disagree with him, and a large majority of the Australian Labor Party and I’d suggest the Australian community also disagree with his strongly held views. We don't have a choice here.
TRIOLI: Did you disagree with his strongly held views in a strong manner yesterday?
DREYFUS: I'm not going to discuss what happened in Shadow Cabinet. I was for a time the Secretary of the Cabinet of Australia. I'm a great believer in confidentiality of both Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet discussions.
DREYFUS: So let's go to what this is about. I don't think there's a choice here. We don't get to say no to climate change, we don't get to say no to the effects of climate change, and we don't get to opt out of taking action. Joel likes to talk about overreach. It's not overreach to take strong action on climate. Change is coming. We can either drive the change or we can have it imposed on us. And I heard the UK Labour Leader overnight, he was talking about there being a jobs emergency and a climate emergency, and he said that coming out of COVID we've got an opportunity to deal with both. And that's right. We've got an opportunity to deal with both. We can either join the rest of the world in acting on climate or we can have the rest of the world tell us what to do.
TRIOLI: Well indeed, and Anthony Albanese has been alive to this ever since the Labor loss at the Federal Election. So on that point Mr Albanese said that he would work in the aftermath of the loss to unite the party's progressive and working class constituencies through his focus on what he called collective aspiration. So does this high profile defection then, and what Joel Fitzgibbon is clinging to in terms of the heart of the Labour Party, does that indicate the Anthony Albanese has failed in that endeavour to unite those two aspects of the party and his party?
DREYFUS: Not in the least. There is a growing sense across the Labor Party, just like there's a growing sense across the Australian community, that we can become a renewable energy superpower. There's a growing sense that taking action on climate is going to be good for the economy, that taking action on climate and creating good manufacturing jobs goes together. We're getting report after report that not acting on climate would cost our economy dearly.
TRIOLI: No argument from me on that Mark Dreyfus, the point is, why has that reality not been accepted within your own party, and by people like Joel Fitzgibbon? I mean that's the issue. The argument - still being argued elsewhere - but should not be still at this level within your party. Why is that still going on?
DREYFUS: Well, Joel Fitzgibbon has ceased to be a member of the Shadow Cabinet and is no longer a frontbencher of the Australian Labor Party. He does not represent more than a handful of views in the Labor Party. I’m serious. I'd say again, there's a growing realisation that taking action on climate is the direction that, not only Australia needs to go in, but the rest of the world is moving on. Perhaps the catalyst for his departure was what I saw as a completely incorrect rejection by him of the importance of the election of Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris, as President and Vice President-elect of the United States. They will come to office committed to taking strong action on climate, committed to removing emissions from electricity generation by 2035, committed to spending $2 trillion on clean energy in the United States, and they got elected and they won states, which have got very large numbers of fracking workers for example.
TRIOLI: Now, just to jump into bringing this back to your party and I take your point that if he rejects that you see him as out of step. This is what he says though, this is Joel Fitzgibbon speaking on RN this morning about, not just what he says is his view, but a broader representative view. Have a listen.
FITZGIBBON: I have very, very significant support in the Caucus for my views on the party's direction, my determination to make the party more electable.
So which is it Mark Dreyfus? It’s just a handful of people who think this or, as Joel Fitzgibbon says, very, very significant support in Caucus?
DREYFUS: The Leader of the Australian Labor Party has said for months now, correctly, Labor has a net zero emissions target by 2050. Joel, apparently thinks that’s overreach, even though countries around the world have embraced it. Amazingly, our Prime Minister has yet to accept a net zero emissions target by 2050 and Joel is out of step. He's out of step with, not only the Labor Party, he’s out of step with thinking across Australia, in the regions, in the cities.
TRIOLI: You’ve not answered my question about the number of people that go with him, that share this view as well, and have still not been brought to the table by your Leader Anthony Albanese. How many are there?
DREYFUS: Well, it's not possible for me to say to you, other than that it's a very small number of people.
TRIOLI: Who are not influential? Who could not go off and cause trouble for Anthony Albanese?
DREYFUS: I'm trying to say, as clearly as I can that Joel's thinking, and the statements that he's been making for many months now, are out of step with what Labor has agreed on. They are out of step with our adoption of the net zero emissions target by 2050. They're out of step with our commitment on renewable energy, and to hear him saying yesterday that Labor had achieved nothing in government when Labor's achievements that are still with us include the Renewable Energy Target, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Australian Renewable Energy Authority, the Carbon Farming Initiative which I launched when we were in government, the work of State Labor Governments, that shows you how out of step Joel's statements are.
TRIOLI: Sure, but Mark Dreyfus you're talking about a member of your own party. It's like you're trying to persuade him. That's the point isn't it? That you that you still have someone who has just departed the frontbench, has occupied that key frontbench position for all this time, and you're talking as if you're trying to persuade him and that's a bad place to be in isn't it when you're just about to go into an election?
DREYFUS: I don't think that having a debate in public is problematic.
TRIOLI: Shouldn’t this have been decided within your party by now?
DREYFUS: Your questioning was directed to precise numbers within the Australian Labor Party and I think you've only got to look at the debate across our country, at the views that are being expressed. The first caller you had on this morning talked about the views of groups within the Hunter, coal miners who are wanting to work on transition, coal miners who see the future of creating good manufacturing jobs in a future where Australia massively expands renewable energy, massively expands our manufacturing base. Using that extraordinary resource of renewable energy that Australia has.
TRIOLI: Let me get to a couple of other quick questions before we move on this morning Mark Dreyfus, and I'm glad you could stay with us for this period of time.
DREYFUS: Not at all.
TRIOLI: Just one question, one question on leadership. Are you fearful, are others fearful, that Joel Fitzgibbon goes off now to cause leadership trouble for Anthony Albanese and becomes a bit of a stalking horse as some have suggested for someone else on the right like Jim Chalmers?
DREYFUS: Not at all. That presents no fears to me. And I'm trying to explain how out of step Joel Fitzgibbon is actually with the substantial majority of the Australian Labor Party in the Federal Parliament and the Australian Labor Party across the country, and I would suggest the Australian community and not just in cities, which seems to be a false proposition that Joel has been putting. There are people throughout our country who wants to see strong action on climate, who saw the effects of the bushfires over the summer, who see what the rest of the world is doing and understand the need for global action which Australia has to join.
TRIOLI: I'll just ask you one final question which follows the Four Corners program on Monday night. How many in the Labor Party have had inappropriate relationships with staffers or others?
DREYFUS: Well I don't know of any myself and I would hope that that has not occurred. We need to have safe workplaces. I absolutely thank those women who came forward on the Four Corners program, Rachelle Miller and Kathleen Foley. They were very brave. They deserve our support for speaking out and I hope that it's a catalyst for more action.
TRIOLI: Has Labor asked the questions or done the investigating either as a result of this or in the lead up to this program or before? Have you had concerns and gone and done a bit of a bit of a sweep and seeing if women and others have been able to make complaints safely?
DREYFUS: We have been working very hard to make sure that we provide a safe workplace for women in the Australian Parliament House and in the Australian Labor Party. We've got too, I would suggest, a different culture to the Liberal Party. We've got 50 percent of women, just for starters, as Members of Parliament in the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party and I’ve watched that change occur in the 12 years that I've been in the Parliament.
TRIOLI: Mark Dreyfus, always good to talk to you. Thanks so much.
DREYFUS: Thanks very much.