Sky News Afternoon Agenda - 03/12/2021

03 December 2021


SUBJECTS: Political Panel with Senator Eric Abetz; Jenkins Review of Parliament House Workplace; Labor’s Climate Plan.

Joining me now live to discuss the week are Labor MP Alicia Payne and Liberal Senator Eric Abetz. Good afternoon to you both, thank you for joining me this afternoon. I want to start with the Jenkins review, the contents of some of the evidence that women in Parliament gave was shocking. Alicia, should Labor investigate some of these allegations?

ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Well, it's obviously a really disturbing read. And I just want to take this opportunity to thank Kate Jenkins for doing that work. And to all the staff and parliamentarians that contributed to that, many of them telling their stories for the first time. It certainly indicates that we really do need to change the culture in this workplace. And I think you know, we should be leading. Australians want to see the Parliament leading on these issues. So that's why Labor are committed to implementing the recommendations of the review after consulting with our staff, which is another thing that we are committed to doing as we implement those recommendations.

DE GIORGIO: Alicia, there's been a big focus on the culture of Parliament this year. Do you think that the situation is improving?

PAYNE: Well, on the very day that Kate Jenkins' report was released, we saw one of, a Government Senator, you know, barking at Jacqui Lambie. So I think we still have a very long way to go. And of course, we've seen the Education Minister stepping aside this week as well. We have a lot of work to do, still.

DE GIORGIO: Eric Abetz, a number of recommendations, 28 were made in this Jenkins review, would you like to see all of them implemented?

ERIC ABETZ, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: I'm working my way through the recommendations. Clearly, there are issues that need to be addressed. But if I might say, one of the things that got me thinking in relation to the recommendations was that there was this emphasis on whether you are male or female, heterosexual or homosexual, or queer, or some other sexuality, your skin colour. At the end of the day, I've always adopted the Martin Luther King approach. That's not the colour of your skin, your sex, your sexuality, or whatever. It's the content of your character. And what we need in this Parliament are women and men of character and decency. And that is what I think there needs to be a greater degree of focus on, rather than physical and extraneous issues which, interesting, important, but at the end of the day, a white person can be just as bullying as a coloured person, or indeed, as the report shows, which surprised me that I think if I've got the stats right, and I'm sure I'll be corrected, if I'm wrong, but 61% of the alleged bullying was, in fact perpetrated by females. And so, It's not so much about gender and those sorts of things. Overall, it is character and personal behaviour and conduct. And that is where each and every individual in this place needs to focus on themselves.

DE GIORGIO: Senator, are you worried, though, about the implications of the events that we have seen transpire in Parliament over the course of the year, what the public might think about the attitudes in Parliament, and the potential impact that that could have on the vote, particularly from women at next year's Federal Election?

ABETZ: Without any doubt, anybody that looks at the report and the various incidents that have been referred to, including the Green Senator's very unseemly comment to one of my female colleagues and, you know, dare I say it was a female on female, that very ugly exchange in the Senate. And that is why it's not so much gender but character, and that is what I've always sought to promote in these discussions. But look, that said, there has been a lot of behaviour completely and utterly unacceptable. And the people that have perpetrated that behaviour need to be either dealt with or have their behaviour changed. And that is where some guidance for Members of Parliament and senior staff I think will be of assistance, to let people know how to behave decently toward each other as fellow human beings, irrespective of skin colour, sex or sexuality.

DE GIORGIO: Absolutely. I want to move on now to climate commitments. Alicia, Labor has announced today it's committing to cutting greenhouse gas by 43% by 2030 if it wins next year's election. Have Labor got the balance right this time?

PAYNE: Thanks Danica, I'm incredibly proud of the plan that Labor have announced today. It's going to lower emissions, it's going to create jobs, and it's going to lower power prices for Australians. And it's in fact, the most comprehensive piece of modelling of a policy, of any policy that an opposition have ever done. It's going to create over 600,000 jobs, the majority of which are in regions, it's going to get us to 82% renewable energy by 2030, and it's going to close that yawning gap that we're seeing between the Government and business at the moment. Business have been calling for certainty, many of the measures in our package are those that business have been calling for. Because under this Government, we've seen 21 energy policies, and belatedly, you know, targets but with no plan to get there. We have a plan that is fully outlined, and on how we can work with business to achieve these targets, and to restore Australia's credibility on the world stage, and a plan to, most importantly, protect the future of our planet.

DE GIORGIO: There's been some criticism from the Coalition. Has the target gone too far, Alicia?

PAYNE: No, well as I said, this is the most comprehensive modelling that's ever been done on such a policy. And we didn't set a target and work backwards, we looked at the policies that we wanted to do, and that many, as I say, that business have called for, and that was where we got to. And this is in line with many of our key trading partners. And, another important part of it is that we have committed to, an Albanese Labor government would legislate that each year, we would look at how we were going, we would have to address the Parliament on how we are going against these targets, similar to the way the Closing the Gap statement on First Nations outcomes goes each year, and I think that's really important. And also, we've committed that we would like Australia to host, actually host a COP in 2024, also bringing our Pacific neighbours into that if they want to co-host it with us. And I think that is such a turnaround from the embarrassment we saw with the Prime Minister going to COP this year, that Australia could go back to being a leader in this space.

DE GIORGIO: Well, the target exceeds the Coalition's of 35%. Eric Abetz, does the Coalition now need to step up?

ABETZ: The Coalition's plan is there for all to see. Minister Taylor has announced and produced a plan, a 126 page document, that sets out chapter and verse how we can get there without taxation, relying on technology, relying on innovation, doing the right thing to protect our jobs, in manufacturing, in the agricultural sector. These are the things that need protection, also in our mining sector. And that is where I must say the Australian Labor Party are unfortunately, losing their historic roots amongst those workers in the mining, agricultural and manufacturing sectors. And look, for Australia hosting a COP meeting, I just hope we don't see the debacle of another 400 private jets lined up at let's say Sydney Airport, which sort of I think exposes what a lot of this is about, a lot of talk fest, a lot of virtue signalling. Whereas the plan that Angus Taylor has set out is doable without prejudicing people's cost of living, their energy prices, and in particular, their jobs.

PAYNE: If I could just respond to that, Danica, this is a plan that's going to create over 600,000 jobs, the majority of which are in the regions. And the regions that have powered Australia all along will be the regions that continue to, and that will benefit from the majority of these jobs. At the moment our economy is being left behind, our private sector is way ahead of the Government on this. This is a plan that's going to spur $76 billion in investment, both private and government, which you know, Australia needs to take advantage of the opportunities being presented here. At the moment we're being left behind and we will be paying the price as the rest of the world moves on, because they know we need to take action on climate change. And it's affecting our exports and it's affecting Australian jobs. So this is a plan about Australia's future.

DE GIORGIO: Alicia, what about cost of living? Just going onto Eric Abetz's point there, will Australians pay the price under this proposal?

PAYNE: This plan will lower power prices by $275 a year at first, and that increases as we go on. Renewable energy is cheaper and what we need to continue that investment in that is actually that certainty. We need Government to get out of the way at this point and allow, allow that investment that the private sector wants to make in renewable energy to continue. A really important part of our plan that we actually announced, had already announced is our 'Rewiring the Nation' plan, which is about investing $20 billion in upgrading our grid so that it's ready to take on the investment in renewables that is coming.

ABETZ: This is really magic pudding stuff. We are told that renewable energy is cheaper. Well, if it is, why does it need to be subsidised and encouraged? The private sector would be down that burrow without any hesitation. 

PAYNE: They are, they are. 

ABETZ: And what we need to be honest with the Australian people is, that there is a cost as well as a benefit to going down this track. And that is why an evolution, which we're suggesting, rather than a revolution, which the Labor Party wants to take us on, is a lot better an approach because it's sustainable, not only environmentally, but also econom- economically, and especially for our jobs and cost of living.

PAYNE: Well, I'd really encourage viewers to have a look at our modelling released in full today, because all the answers are in there, and we expect scare campaigns from this Government, it's all they've got

DE GIORGIO: Well already, gearing up for climate policy to be a big one at next year's Federal Election. We have unfortunately run out of time though. Eric Abetz, Alicia Payne, great to chat to you both, thank you for joining me this afternoon.

ABETZ: A pleasure. Thank you.

PAYNE: Thanks very much.