Sky News with Peter Stefanovic 21/03/24

By Tanya Plibersek

21 March 2024







PETER STEFANOVIC: The mining industry is building up a revolt against Tanya Plibersek and her nature positive plan as some of the sector's biggest names, and that includes the Minerals Council, fear it could delay clean energy plans. Let's bring in the Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek now. Minister, good to see you. So, will mining projects for those critical minerals that are needed for Chris Bowen's energy revolution be derailed?


TANYA PLIBERSEK, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: Well, in fact the whole reason to do the law reform that we've embarked on with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is to, yes, better protect the environment, but also to make faster, clearer decisions for business.


When Professor Graeme Samuel did his review in 2020 of our environment laws, he found that they weren't working for the environment, and they weren't working for business. So, we are working with the environment groups and with the business community to reform those laws, and as I've said all along, it's going to need a little bit of common sense, a little bit of compromise and a little bit of cooperation to get this done. So far I've had excellent engagement with many of the mining companies, with the WA Minerals Council, with the National Minerals Council; they've been thoroughly engaged in the process, and I'm looking forward to making sure that we do what we need to, to protect Australia's precious environment but also facilitate projects that are absolutely vital for jobs and for our national prosperity.


And can I give you an example, so far we have doubled the rate of on‑time approvals for projects. When you mention renewable energy, I've ticked off on 45 renewable energy projects since coming to government. I've got another 128 in the pipeline in front of me, and we're doing them twice as fast as the previous government was, and not just renewable energy projects, but housing projects, transport, the minerals that the Minerals Council are talking about. We're approving projects at twice the on time rate of the previous government.


STEFANOVIC: Okay. So, when you say compromise that doesn't mean more red tape? 


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: It means less red tape. This is the whole purpose of doing the law reform. At the moment, we've got a 20‑year‑old Act that's very legalistic, it's very kind of, you know, tick the box, but it doesn't really focus on the outcomes we want to achieve. What do we want to achieve? We want jobs and prosperity for Australia, and we want to make sure that our kids can see a koala wild in a tree in 30 years' time. We need to be able to do both.


STEFANOVIC: Okay. Minister, Paul Keating, he's got this meeting with Wang Yi today after those bilateral talks yesterday. Is the former Prime Minister trolling your government at the moment?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: I think it is perfectly natural for a former Prime Minister who has contributed so much to Australia, and particularly to setting Australia up for prosperity in the future by recognising that our economic future lay in Asia, the fastest growing region of the world, it's perfectly natural for Paul to want to meet senior Chinese officials in this way.


We're about making sure that the relationship with China is one that is beneficial to both parties, and you can see with the restoration of our trade in barley, the hope we have for our wine exports to be restored, I mean wine on its own I think is more than a billion dollars a year worth of exports to Australia.




MINISTER PLIBERSEK: We need to make sure that our economic future is recognised.




MINISTER PLIBERSEK: And I don't agree with everything Paul Keating's said particularly about Penny Wong but, you know, he was one of the first to recognise that Australian prosperity was absolutely bound up, not just with China, but with our ASEAN neighbours and our region.


STEFANOVIC: Sure. But I mean Penny Wong said, what, I think yesterday, that he doesn't speak for the government or for the country. So I mean realistically, what comes out of it?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: No, he doesn't. He doesn't, but I think he's perfectly entitled as a former Prime Minister to have any meetings he wants. It's, you know, I don't think he's doing anything to undermine the relationship. I think it's very important that ‑






STEFANOVIC: Speaking of meetings, do you think Kevin Rudd will be able to get one with Donald Trump if he becomes President in November? 


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, you know, I think it's extraordinary that the Opposition have sought to politicise the appointment of Kevin Rudd as Ambassador. When Joe Hockey was the Ambassador to the United States, Labor had a Team Australia approach to that.


When Arthur Sinodinos was the Ambassador to the United States, Labor had a Team Australia approach to that. 


STEFANOVIC: They weren't attacked by the President though.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, I mean he's not the President, he is a candidate for the President, and I think it's quite an important distinction to make. Joe Biden is the President.


STEFANOVIC: He might be though; he might be President again.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, that's a matter for the American people, and I'm confident that Kevin Rudd can work with whomever the American people elect.


But Joe Biden is the President, and I think at a time when cost‑of‑living is featuring in most Australians' thinking, the fact that the Liberals want to take a cheap shot at Australia's Ambassador in the United States says more about them than it says about Kevin Rudd.

STEFANOVIC: Tanya Plibersek, good to have you with us, as always. We'll chat to you again soon.