TUESDAY, 29 OCTOBER 2019
SUBJECT: The future of the Australian Labor Party.
JOURNALIST: We're going to cross live all the way to Perth Western Australia, where we find the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Stephen Jones. Stephen, thank you for your time. Now, you're in Perth with the Labor leadership to talk about the future direction of the Labor party. And there's a key speech that Anthony Albanese is giving later tonight. What's the most important thing to come out of it for you?
STEPHEN JONES: Yeah. So this is the first of three speeches, which our leader Anthony is going to be giving over the next six months, which are going to set the broad directions of what a Labor government will look like, and the direction of our policy development over the next three years. Anthony's going to be focusing on jobs and the sorts of jobs that we need in states like Western Australia to turn the economy around. Because we know here in Western Australia that growth is flagging. We know the businesses are doing it tough. We know that households are doing it tough. Expenses are going up, but wages aren't going up. Profits are flat. We need a boost for jobs, and we need a plan for Western Australia. And the rest of the country. Anthony's going to be focusing on some of the key things that we need to do. He’s identified the importance of mining to a clean energy future. He'll be talking about the importance of ensuring that Australia can leverage off its natural advantage as an energy generating powerhouse. We've done that for over a century with traditional fuels such as coal and oil, and we've also got an abundance of solar energy. He's going to be talking about the importance of Australia playing a key part in renewable energy development, and the other things that people don't often think about.
JOURNALIST: It does come off as a bit disingenuous from Labor to say that they're going to couple the their green ambitions with an increase in mining especially for a state like WA, where so much of its the downturn is due to lack of mining. Is that something that would be impacted by more targets like emission reduction targets?
STEPHEN JONES: Look, let's talk about the WA issue. To start with, WA has gone through an extraordinary boom in the development of new mines. Lots of jobs in that phase. Less jobs as the mines become operational and that probably is one of the keys to the downturn in mining employment throughout Western Australia. A lot of people with negative equity in their houses are feeding into to that sentiment, and the fact that we haven't seen a wage rise here or anywhere else in the country in a long, long time. But can I go to your key point here? I come from a region where we mine metallurgical coal and where we turn that into steel through BlueScope Port Kembla steelworks. A lot of that steel goes into renewable energy projects. It takes a lot of steel to build a wind turbine, for example. And if Australia wants to be at the forefront – and we can be at the forefront – in playing a part in those renewable energy jobs, then there's a lot of steel and a lot of metallurgical coal in those areas. We want to ensure that Australia leverages off our natural advantages. We’ll also be talking about battery development. You know, we've got some of the biggest lithium deposits in the world for mines in operation here in Western Australia. We don't want to just dig the stuff up. We want to be able to convert that into batteries, which will be a key part of energy storage. So ensuring that we're doing the downstream processing of our wonderful minerals wealth is going to be a key part of what Anthony will talk about today as well.
JOURNALIST: Isn't this becoming quite a divide in the Labor party though? We saw it during the election. You had half the party against Adani, half the party for Adani. Yesterday, we had Walt Secord, a senior Labor figure from New South Wales, come on this show and say that it is a divisive issue in the Labor party and that they do need to take the front foot saying that Labor is pro-mining.
STEPHEN JONES: Annalise, it's a divisive issue in the community. Let's just be frank. There’s no point in denying the obvious. Yes, Adani and coal is a divisive issue within the community, but we've got to get some facts into argument. If you like steel, you need metallurgical coal. There's a heap of it in the hills behind where I live in the Illawarra. There's a heap of it in Queensland as well. And nobody's invented a way of attaching a molecule of carbon on to iron to turn it into steel that doesn't involve metallurgical coal. We've got lots of it. We want to use it to boost our steel industry, which is going very well in Port Kembla at the moment. We want to ensure that it continues to go well there. We can continue to be a country that produces steel, and that also exports metallurgical coal. Not only for making wind turbines, but everything from rail to being a key part of the inputs in developing the new capital that Indonesia is going to be building in the next decade as well. So there are lots of opportunities for lots of jobs. Let's get some facts into the table. If you like steel, you need some coal to put into those blast furnaces and convert that iron ore into steel. Australia wants to do both those things.
JOURNALIST: Now, when it comes to Labor’s climate policy, one of the big discussions has been around your emissions reduction target. We had Angus Taylor on this morning talking about it. This is what he had to say:
ANGUS TAYLOR: It is time for the opposition to drop the reckless targets, which were rejected by Australia at the last election. Any notion that the opposition that Albanese is focused on blue collar workers and manufacturing energy intensive industries, when at the same time they're hanging on to those reckless targets, is a fairy tale.
JOURNALIST: What do you think, Stephen Jones? Is it time to drop your emissions target?
STEPHEN JONES: Look, Angus Taylor himself is in more trouble than the early Christians. The last miner he met was Marius Kloppers (the former CEO of BHP). Frankly, I grew up in a coal-mining region. I represent those workers in those industries. I think that I've got a bit more on the ground familiarity with what's going on there than that Angus Taylor. He should focus on the problems that he's dealing with it. Somebody should come clean about the scandal that has emerged from his own office. He should release the letters and explain how he's been involved or his office has been involved in the publication and proliferation of forged documents. And he should learn to read a graph, because Angus is the energy minister who thinks emissions are going down when they're going up. He hasn't got a plan to meet the targets that his own government signed up to in Paris a few short years ago. So frankly, I won't be copying a lecture from Angus Taylor. He’s an incompetent minister and it now appears that he's probably a dishonest one as well. He should focus on his own problems
JOURNALIST: When it comes to Labor's climate policy – as we have seen in the election – the biggest weakness was that it wasn't costed. Will you commit as a Labor party to making sure that your climate policy is costed before the next election?
STEPHEN JONES: Look, we'll have a full suite of costed policies that we take to the next election. So that Australians know exactly what we're going to be offering to them. It will be focused on jobs. It'll be focused on ensuring that we can generate the wage increases that Australians need and that the economy needs to get growth going in this country again. And we'll have a plan to do that. Frankly, the problem that the Prime Minister has got is that he wants to wait until May next year before he makes any announcements. Let me just give you one example of where that's a problem. We've been calling on the Government to implement an investment guarantee. Take the Liquid Paper out and cover over the policy that Labor took to the last election. Now, investment guarantee, call it whatever you like, but it's the right policy for the times. The problem with saying you're not going to do anything until May next year is that the businesses that might have a plan to invest in some new technology or some new equipment to expand their plants are going to be sitting back and saying “Well, I’ll wait till next year because the government's got something up its sleeve.” They may actually implement something next year. And the problem is we need the investment now, we need the growth now. We need businesses bringing forward their plan now to stimulate investment to stimulate growth to stimulate job. Josh Frydenberg is engaged in a vanity project about trying to stand up in six months’ time and make some big announcements, when what Australia needs today is a plan to create jobs and growth and investment. We’re sorely wanting.
JOURNALIST: Stephen Jones, thank you for joining us all the way from Perth Western Australia, even though it’s very early. So we appreciate you making the time.
STEPHEN JONES: Always good to be with you.