By Tanya Plibersek

13 October 2021



SUBJECTS: Net zero by 2050, Labor’s Energy Policies, IBAC; Working parents juggle.  

LAURA JAYES, HOST: We are joined by Shadow Minister for Education and Women, Tanya Plibersek. Thanks so much for your time. As mentioned the Cabinet will be discussing this net zero emissions policy by 2050 today. It looks like the Government is going to going to get there, perhaps with a few concessions along the way. Has Labor now being outflanked in climate policy?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Well, I hope for the sake of the country that we do land on a net zero emissions target for 2050. But of course with Scott Morrison, you always know, it's usually too little too late by the time it gets to a decision. Labor has been on the right side of this argument for a decade and a half at least and we welcome the Government, if it is a genuine commitment to finally taking action to increase your renewable energy share in our electricity system. That would be fantastic, because Australia is uniquely placed in the world to make the most of renewable energy like solar, like wind, and to reap the benefit of the jobs that come with that. You saw our leader Anthony Albanese has been out talking about this, this morning. Chris Bowen will be talking about it later today. We already have policies on the table - cheaper electric cars, investing in transmission mines, our reconstruction fund, that would allow us to invest in those renewable energy sources as well. And this is where Australians themselves have been for years. I mean there's a reason that a quarter of Australian homes have solar panels on the roof. Some of it's because people are committed environmentalists, but a lot of its just because we know that that's where we get cheaper energy and the jobs that come with that.
JAYES: Indeed, and I think you're right to say that Labor has been on the right side of policy and on the right side of history when it comes to all of this, but perhaps at the wrong time? I mean Bill Shorten just could not sell this at the last election why?
PLIBERSEK: I think it's interesting, isn't it? That we've had the Business Council of Australia and the News Limited newspapers, which was such vociferous opponents of action on climate change at the time of the last election, have come on board to help make the case on how important this is for Australia's future. 
JAYES: Can I just pick you up on that, because you're right there has been a big change, the Business Council - a huge shift and Bill Shorten, I detected was perhaps a little bit miffed by that and perhaps rightly so. But Jennifer Westacott argues the facts have changed. The business, not just the Business Council and the businesses that the council represents, but banks, global companies, there's been a speed up in the shift in recent years. Do you buy that? 
PLIBERSEK: I mean, no, I just don't. I just don't buy the fact that the business community isn't looking more than two years into the future. Are they really saying that they couldn't have predicted two years ago that renewable energy was going to become an increasing share of the international, the global energy market and that investors would be looking to back it? Could they really say that two years ago they didn't know that Australia was uniquely positioned to make the most of the renewable energy revolution that the globe is engaged in at the moment? And I guess one of the things that is sad about this is the missed opportunity that Australia has had because of it. The thousands of jobs that we’ve missed out on because of these delays. The Government has now had 22 energy policies. Anthony Albanese wrote to Scott Morrison more than a year ago, saying ‘let's get bipartisan about this. Let's come up with a solution that we can all live with’. All of that delay has cost jobs. Australia should be leading the world in in renewable energy and instead we're being dragged along by the international community. That cost jobs. That cost us jobs.
JAYES: All that said, then, why doesn't Labor have a 2030 Target? Because I feel like you've been burned by the last election, so that ambition has been pulled back. Where's the 2030 target, do you really need to wait for the Government to set one?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it is important for us to see what comes out of the Glasgow summit. And we've been very clear that we will have interim targets before the next election. We have been saying all the way along though, that Labor is firmly committed to a net zero emissions target by 2050, and a sensible path to get there. That means knowing where you're going to be at 2035 and 2040, not leaving it till the last minute. Because we know if we leave action to the last minute, that’s when it becomes really expensive and difficult for the economy in particular.
JAYES: Indeed. Let's talk about IBAC now, that gets underway today. Alan Tudge said it was the most extraordinary evidence he had ever heard yesterday. Were you as shocked by it as he was?
PLIBERSEK: I was shocked by some of the revelations, yesterday. I think there are some very serious issues being discussed at the IBAC. I think it's important to let the independent commission do their work before we start commentating too much on the details of it, but it's interesting, isn’t it? To have Coalition MPs saying they were shocked by it, when the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is going out saying that pork barrelling is a natural part of politics, and the fact that they're pork barrelling in National seats is just business as usual. I think you have to be very careful to apply the same standards to your own side as when you're pointing the finger at the other side.
JAYES: Is Anthony Byrne been being protected? I mean he's admitted to branch stacking, using staff or misusing staff. I mean none of this is contested anymore, but he still stays where he is. Is that right?
PLIBERSEK: Look like I say, the revelations yesterday were very serious and they were very concerning and I think that this has to play out. We need to make sure that we allow the IBAC to do its work without any sort of to political interference or commentating from the sidelines. One thing I would point out is that Anthony Byrne is the whistleblower in all of this as well.
JAYES: Yes, but should that mean that he gets away with it?
PLIBERSEK: No, that's not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying that we need to let the IBAC do its work independently and without any sort of political interference or commentating, in the same way as we've said this about the New South Wales ICAC being allowed to do its job without people who hear a fraction of the evidence, or know a fraction of the evidence, commenting from the sidelines.
JAYES: Okay, there is cause for celebration in Sydney this week with freedom day or freedom week, it's been a rainy one. But there was a headline screaming at a few mother's this morning saying the impossible juggle working from home, trying to home school - I mean, you would certainly be empathetic.
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, you don't say!
JAYES: You would be empathetic. Yes, but I mean, more seriously has this pandemic really pushed back gender equality in the workplace? Women have been less productive, they've probably had less opportunity to get a promotion. Are those things that we should be concerned about being proactive to get ahead of?
PLIBERSEK: I tell you what Freedom Day doesn't really arrive for working parents, particularly working mums, until the kids are back at school. I was kind of amused by all the photos of people out sinking their coldies at 10am thinking well, I'm still here on the endless zooms, trying to supervise remote learning between my meetings.  But I think there is a more serious point here. Australian women have lost more hours of work, they've been more likely to lose their work, they've received less government assistance, and like you point out, they've been doing that juggle at home. There's a physical exhaustion, emotional exhaustion - and if employers don't get that if they want a tough job done they should give it to a working mum who has been juggling work and home-schooling, then they are really missing the point. Women have shown their capacity to do more than any human should be expected to do in an ordinary working week, and thank goodness. And thanks to all the parents out there who've been supervising remote learning and keeping their jobs ticking over.
JAYES: Yep. If you want something done, give it to a very busy parent because I can guarantee it would happen. Before we let you go, I think you've had a haircut, is that right? Have you squeezed in a haircut?
PLIBERSEK: No. I haven't not yet. Not yet. I'm really looking forward to it.
JAYES: Okay. Well, we'll let you go, and maybe you'll get some time for that. Tanya Plibersek, thanks so much.