ABC NEWS - 2050 climate target, COVID-19 vaccine rollout

ABC NEWS - 2050 climate target, COVID-19 vaccine rollout Main Image

08 February 2021

Monday, 8 February, 2021

SUBJECTS: 2050 climate target; detention of Cheng Lei; COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Time now for my political panel, Nationals Senator Matt Canavan and Labour MP Kristy McBain both of them. Join me this afternoon. Welcome to both of you. I want to start with you if I can Matt Canavan, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has flagged the government might consider excluding agriculture from long term climate change targets, given New Zealand's lead in exempting emissions from the industry, would that satisfy you if that was the case?

MATT CANAVAN, SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Look, I don't think we should be signing up to this mythical target in any case. I mean, we've got a much more pressing issues to deal with in our own country and region right now. This target is 30 years away. The countries that are most pushing this target themselves haven't even met their own Kyoto targets, which came to last year. So I'm not sure how much they can be trusted. And you've got a situation where China last year brought online over 30 gigawatts of coal fired power, which is more than the whole coal fired power that we have installed in this country. It's just not real. So let's focus on real things. And I find this a massive distraction.

KARVELAS: Kristy, Matt Canavan is saying that this is a major distraction, yet it seems the government's inching its way towards this.

KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Yeah, that's right. I mean, we've had 22 energy and climate policies in the last eight years from this government. We don't have a commitment to net zero by 2050. And now we've got some talk within the National Party, that they want to exempt agriculture out of it, but they don't have a 2050 target. So it's, it's an interesting conundrum, and obviously an issue between the Nationals and the Liberals.

KARVELAS: Yeah, Matt Canavan. It is clear that the Prime Minister wants to sign on to something. I mean, he says he wants to get there by 2050. If he does decide to sign up, what will you do?

CANAVAN: Well, I'm opposed to it. And I can't stop a government signing a piece of paper. But as a Senator for Queensland, I'll make sure that all my votes in the parliament represent their interests. 

KARVELAS: So you'd cross the floor on this?

CANAVAN: Well, absolutely, I would if, if that was the in the best interest of Queensland. I note my Nationals Senate colleagues in the past have done so. I remember Fiona Nash, and Wacker Williams. And I think Barnaby was still in the Senate, then crossed the floor to stop trees being planted on agricultural land a number of years ago, and that's one of my principal concerns here, what happens under a net zero, target and Kristy didn't have a lot of details there. And policy is not really fleshed out. But what happens is, people can still fly overseas for the holidays, they just tick a box, and they plant some trees up where I live in Central Queensland to offset their moral guilt about flying overseas. 

So their net zero impact is not a net impact up here. The gross impacts up in regional Australia where if a hectare is planted with trees, that's fewer jobs, the farm goes, there's not a longer people at the sugar mill, there's no longer business for the local tyre shop or the petrol station. That's the real world impact of this.

KARVELAS: That's the impact if you do nothing to replace those jobs. Right. And that's not what either Scott Morrison or the Opposition are talking about? Well, you're talking about a proposition which is just a withdrawal, not a replacement.

CANAVAN: I still want to see a farm in this country. And the facts are, the only reason we met at Kyoto targets is not because of the efforts of people in Melbourne, or Sydney or Brisbane, the only reason we met our Kyoto targets is because we stripped property rights from farmers and stopped them developing their own land, we're now actually reducing the amount of land under farming today, and I don't want to see that continue. I want to see it's developed the north of our country. 

So I want to see us produce more as a nation, not less, and this policy, net zero, Kyoto. All of these policies have shut down production in this country and made us weaker for it.

KARVELAS: So, you say you would cross the floor on this if the government does want to sign up to the 2050 net zero emission target. Are there other Nationals who would do the same?

CANAVAN: Oh, look, I can't speak for others

KARVELAS: You do speak to your colleagues all the time. Is that the sentiment in the Nationals?

CANAVAN: Okay, and I'm not I'm not. I'm not about to divulge conversations I have with them on national TV as much as you'd like me to Patricia, that's for them to reveal or otherwise, I'm letting you know my views. But I know Yeah, just a year ago, Michael McCormack, the leader of the Nationals came out very strongly said he was opposed to a net zero. target by 2050.

KARVELAS: If he secures the exclusion of agriculture from a potential target, that's not good enough for you?

CANAVAN: I'm opposed to it holus-bolus because it would shut down coal mines, it would shut down factories. It would shift our jobs over to China more. I mean, China's been stealing our jobs for 20 years is they've been in the world trade organisation. This is just another way to do that, because they're not going to cut their emissions and give me a break. They won't adhere to a trade agreement we signed five years ago there's no way they're gonna adhere to a climate agreement.

KARVELAS: Let me just ask Kristy McBain. Kristy McBain if I can put that to you, you know taking agriculture out of the target like New Zealand, do you think that would be a reasonable approach?

MCBAIN: Look it's reasonable to have the discussion and that's what we're doing in the Labor Party - having discussions over it. It's clear that there's a split in the Liberal and National parties over this. 

And there has been for some time and I think the last leader that was toppled on this was obviously Malcolm Turnbull during that those climate wars but, you know, right across the Eden-Monaro electorate, we've got a whole bunch of agriculture, we've got on farm and ocean farming, and I can tell you that farmers stand ready to make some changes, they want to see more investment in the CSIRO, they want to know what the future of farming is. They've had to change practices over and over and over again, to deal with the things that are being thrown at them. 

So farmers are ready to play their part in this, the National Farmers Federation has committed to net zero by 2050. So I think that there is a discussion to be had. And it's not about ceasing anything. It's about what we do now and what we do differently. That's the important discussion we should be having.

KARVELAS: Just on today's sad story in relation to Australian journalist Cheng Lei, I want to start with you, Matt Canavan, what do you make of the arrest of the Australian journalist now?

CANAVAN: Well, it's very concerning. It's concerning when any journalist, particularly an Australian, -  held on charges which don't seem to have a lot of evidence behind them. It reminds me of the Peter Greste situation years ago, eventually, we were able to achieve his release and hopefully here, we'll be able to do the same in Ms Lei's situation. 

With that in mind, I don't want to add much more commentary to the specific situation but you know, it is another unfortunate example of the deterioration of relationship between our two countries, Marise Payne has certainly expressed concerns in this case, and the Australian Government is doing everything we can to help Ms Lei and let her let her fair trial and hopefully freedom at some point.

KARVELAS: Alexander Downer was on the program earlier and he called it hostage diplomacy. Is that how you say it to Matt Canavan?

CANAVAN: Look, I don't have enough information in this case. It's not the first time an Australian has been detained in China. And that's been going on for some years, even well before we've had perhaps a more difficult relationship between the two national governments. 

So I want to add speculation to this case except to say that, you know, we are going through a tough time between our two countries. I do think the Australian Government has had a consistent position on matters regarding Chinese investment, and any foreign involvement in our politics, I think it's a position held by the Australian Labor Party as well and we've just got to put forward at that position as consistently as possible and we can't control what other nations do.

KARVELAS: Kristy McBain isn't hostage diplomacy concerned about this case.

MCBAIN: Look, it's obviously concerning that we've got another journalist being held in another country and you know, Marise Payne is following those diplomacy channels at the moment to have those discussions. But I agree with Matt, anytime that we have a citizen held by another country it's concerning and, we'll leave it up to the diplomats to sort our way through that situation.

KARVELAS: Let's just end on the COVID vaccination that, of course, is being rolled out Matt Canavan, are you going to get the Coronavirus vaccine, if you can?

CANAVAN: Yeah, I will. I think there's enough evidence now from overseas, that it's safe to take it obviously this vaccine is being produced quickly. But I'm sure it's been produced with enormous resources behind it. And we've of course, had at least one vaccine approved here in Australia. 

So look, I'm comfortable with our approval processes. They've been diligent and gone through. And look, hopefully now we'll just get on with it and get this out there as soon as we can. It's got to be a very challenging task thought, we've had time to prepare. But there have been difficulties in other countries. And I'm sure like anything in life like any venture, there'll be difficulties and hurdles for us in the next few months.

KARVELAS: I wonder, Kristy, do you support the rollout of the vaccination certificates? The idea of being able to get a special certificate to travel?

MCBAIN: Yeah, I think it's really important. I mean, so much of Eden-Monaro relies on tourism and our local communities need some certainty, so I am very much behind the idea and behind the rollout and when it is my turn and I know I'm not at the front of the queue, I'll definitely take my jab to make sure that our local economies and our local communities can continue to function.  

KARVELAS: Thanks to both of you.

Media contact: Ian Campbell, phone 0417 482 171