E&OE TRANSCRIPT - TELEVISION INTERVIEW - ABC - SUBJECTS: Morrison-Joyce Government failures on climate, Barnaby Joyce running the country, COP26, Net-zero by 2050, Convention on Biological Diversity COP15.

By Terri Butler MP and Patricia Karvelas (Host)

20 October 2021

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Terri Butler is the shadow environment and water minister. She's also my guest, Terri Butler. Hello. 


KARVELAS: Good. The Deputy Prime Minister has indicated the National Party will be able to detail its position on net zero by 2050 by the end of the week. Is that a fair enough timeframe? It obviously gives us enough time as a country to prepare the position for Glasgow. 
BUTLER: I mean, they've had eight years, Patricia. They've been in government for eight long years. It's not a surprise that this incredibly significant climate conference is on in Glasgow in a couple of weeks' time. Why is it that they're just now, at five minutes to midnight, trying to come up with Australia's position for this conference? Australians actually deserve a government that takes climate change seriously. Unfortunately, this one's full of climate deniers, which might go some way to explaining this problem.
KARVELAS: Today's cabinet meeting marks the fourth involving National Party MPs this week. Now, senior Nats say they are not grandstanding. Do you believe the length of this process is purely to get the most out of the deal for the regions that that's what they're trying to achieve here?
BUTLER: Well, actually, the Prime Minister needs to explain to Australians exactly how much of Australians' money -- of taxpayers' money -- he is going to have to pay the National Party just to come up with an agreed climate change plan, because that's what we're talking about here. The Nationals trying to extract public funds from the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister pretending to be powerless, you know, making it as, like he always does, trying to make it all someone else's responsibility, "It's up to the Nationals," Barnaby Joyce tacitly running the country from the National Party party room. I mean, this is actually nonsense. Climate change is not a new phenomenon. These mob have had too many deniers, too many delays and a complete lack of action for too long. And now they're under pressure, and rightly so, I think. 
KARVELAS: OK, but can you really blame them? Wouldn't Labor do the same in terms of trying to extract the best deal for their -- for the people they represent? Clearly, you know, they're going in and they're going in pretty hard trying to extract a deal.
BUTLER: We want to see the government come up with genuine, principled policy to address climate change. They should have already done that. Glasgow's in a couple of weeks’ time. There's actually no excuse for this government, for the Nationals and the Liberals to be still refusing to tell Australians what their plan will be for the future, refusing to tell Australians what they're going to take to Glasgow by way of increased ambition and improved policy. They just have not been prepared. And it's just once again refusing to take responsibility. "I don't hold a hose mate." "It's up to other countries." "It's up to everyone else." The buck stops with the Prime Minister. He needs to do better on climate change, just like he does with the pandemic, just like he's done with so many issues like bushfires. He actually needs to take responsibility and stop trying to make this all about what everyone else is going to do and what everyone else is going to say. 
KARVELAS: Terri Butler, the government hasn't publicly released its plan to reach the target by 2050 or the modelling. Do you agree those should be released? 
BUTLER: Well, I think that the first thing that they need to do is unequivocally commit to net zero by 2050. It's something we've been committed to for years. The National Farmers Federation is -- 
KARVELAS: Sure, but don’t we need to see what that looks like? What the analysis says? 
BUTLER: -- we absolutely need to see, and as Chris Bowen said in his speech recently, we need to see the ambition, but it's not enough. It's a necessary but insufficient prerequisite. But it is the first step. It is the prerequisite. We do need the nation of Australia, the government of the nation, to actually commit to this very reasonable target that almost all of our trading partners have committed to, and that has so much support domestically. And we need to see the policy to match that ambition. And as we've said, that policy should be focused on jobs and it should be focused on the regions. You know, I heard Barnaby Joyce talking in Question Time today about saying there are no renewable towns. Well, he claims to have been to the Atherton Tablelands -- he obviously hasn't been to Ravenshoe in the last 20 years where there has been a massive wind farm operating throughout that entire time. He obviously hasn't driven from Tolga to Mareeba and seen the wind farm on the way there. The fact is this is not a surprise. They need to have the policy to back up the ambition. It needs to be about jobs and it needs to be about regions, and it needs to already be done. And I think Australians are quite rightly just scratching their heads and saying, what is the problem with this mob?
KARVELAS: Where are Labor's detailed plans? The Opposition says it won't be revealed until after Glasgow. Why? I mean, you too have had the science before you for some time. We know what we need to do. You had a very specific reduction policy at the last election, which you've scrapped. Is that the one you're going to resurrect? 
BUTLER: Well, Scott Morrison tries to make everything someone else's responsibility. And I tell you what I wouldn't support Patricia. I wouldn't support helping him do that by talking about what Labor would do in the hypothetical situation if we were in government right now. They're the government. They need to say what we will do as a nation right now in advance of Glasgow. Now, I know that people want to see strong climate policy, and so do I. And I'm absolutely committed to making sure that we take that to the next election, of course, in supporting my colleague, Shadow Minister Chris Bowen. But right now, we can't let the government off the hook. They would love it if we were talking about everyone but them. They would love it if we were talking about what every other party's climate policies were. It's up to Scott Morrison. The buck stops with him. He's got to stop looking for someone else to blame, someone else to hide behind, and actually take responsibility and show some leadership, which he's been sorely lacking in for such a long time. 
KARVELAS: OK, but that sounds like a political answer that you want the focus to be on the government. Isn't it a missed opportunity to be on the front foot and to say this is what we need to do as a country to reduce emissions because we want to avoid catastrophic climate change? 
BUTLER: How do we get action on climate change? We get it through having a government that is willing to take action on climate change. That is how we get action on climate change in this country. So the fundamental question is not "is the science correct?" Of course it is. Is not "do we need to act?" Of course we do. It is. What now will the government of the day do to act on the climate science, do to act on the looming climate crisis, do to act on the IPCC report that was released earlier this year? So when you say it sounds like a political answer, well, my answer to that is it's absolutely up to the government of the day to make sure that they tell Australians what they're going to do and to take action. And the reason that Glasgow is so important is because it brings together political leaders from around the world to commit to action on climate change. So we need a political approach from this government where they will say - by showing leadership, by demonstrating what they will do at a political level - we need them to show what they will do, and then we need them to, on the world stage, not say, oh, we're not really willing to do anything. We need them to actually restore Australia to a position of seeking to bring other countries with us to show what we are willing to do and to take real action on climate change. It's pretty simple, Patricia, I think. This prime minister is absolutely unwilling to take responsibility for anything. We're not going to let him off the hook on that. And yes, that means talking about what the government should be doing right now.
KARVELAS: Terri Butler, you've criticized the government's record on biodiversity after COP 15. The UN Convention on Biodiversity, we’re caring a lot about the climate change one, but the biodiversity one was held last week. How do the current targets fall short and what's Labor's alternative?
BUTLER: So the current set of targets were the Aichi targets that were created in 2010. They ran to 2020. The world's currently in a bit of a vacuum in relation to international targets on biodiversity. So what COP 15 is all about is -- COP 15 to the biological diversity conference, I should say -- is actually setting the new post-2020 global biodiversity targets. Now, it hasn't done that yet. They had the first half of the meeting last week. And they're going to have the second half in May next year. But what we need is for the world to commit to ambitious biodiversity targets as well as climate targets, because the world is not just in a climate crisis, we're also in a biodiversity crisis. Now, what's happened in Australia is that the government's been very quiet about Australia's ability to meet the 2010 Aichi targets. It seems that there's very little evidence that we've met any of them. And then they've also, in terms of our domestic biodiversity strategy, taken the policy, the strategy, I should say, that we implemented when we were in government, which had specific, measurable, clear goals and targets and replaced it with a new 2019 strategy that's all motherhood statements. It's fair -- I mean, it's all lovely stuff. It's all high level stuff. But they've deliberately, I think, taken out the measurability of the targets in that new strategy. I think what Australians want to see, given that we are the world leader in mammal extinctions, given that we have our own domestic biodiversity crisis. Australians want to see stronger action when it comes to protecting threatened species. And they want to see a government that will again take a leadership position, try to do better when it comes to biodiversity and not on the world stage be finding ways to avoid taking real action. And that's really the concern that we have about it. So we'll see what happens in May next year. But in the meantime, the government needs to get better at showing leadership on  biodiversity protection. 
KARVELAS: Terri Butler, thank you. Thank you so much, the shadow minister for the environment and water, Terri Butler.