11 November 2020



SUBJECTS: Climate Change policy; workplace conduct.  

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Let's go to my first guests of the program, Andrew Wallace from the Liberal Party. Peta Murphy from the Labor Party joining me here in the studio. Thanks both for your time, all the talk, of course, what is happening in your party at the moment- Joel Fitzgibbon, a pretty dramatic quitting of the front bench. He says the party essentially needs to win back blue-collar voters. He says he has a large number of supporters too around the direction on climate. Do you agree with that?
PETA MURPHY, MEMBER FOR DUNKLEY: Joel has obviously said a lot of things recently, I am absolutely confident that our party is committed to a positive and strong policy on climate change, net zero emissions by 2050. You heard Anthony Albanese set out the link between climate change policies and jobs, at his budget reply speech, rewiring the electricity grid. We are absolutely focused on the fact that good climate change policies are also good for jobs and good for the economy.
CONNELL: The problem he cites is you keep having these more ambitious policies. And they either get scrapped i.e. the carbon tax or you lose elections, which the carbon tax was a big, big part of as well. It hasn't been successful in terms of taking it to elections has it?
MURPHY: We won an election and would have introduced an emissions reduction scheme had the greens not blocked it, which they seem to forget very often. And it is the rest of the world understands I mean, every state and territory in Australia understand net zero by 2050. The UK understands even China understands, BHP, the Business Council, the ACTU, you know the list goes on and on and on. And everyone understands why this is so important for jobs, for the economy and for the planet. And I represent an outer suburban seat, which was held by the liberals for 23 years. And I ran on a positive agenda to deal with climate change and also to make sure that Australians have jobs in the future and I won the seat.
CONNELL: So, you seem to disagree with Joel Fitzgibbon, is it frustrating that he's gone so public in this way?
MURPHY: Well, Joel Fitzgibbon is a backbencher. I'm a backbencher. And he can do whatever interviews he wants
CONNELL: And is it better that he's gone? He was speaking out as a front bencher as well. Is it better that he's gone to the backbench, is it more appropriate?
MURPHY: He’s made that decision and the decisions about who’s Shadow Minister are a little bit above my paygrade. I don't think it's bad for this country to have a proper discussion about what reducing emissions and protecting the environment means. And we need to have a proper discussion based on facts.
CONNELL: It's interesting to look at the way the world is going at the moment, not just the election of Joe Biden, but South Korea, Japan, 2050 net zero, even China 2060 I think their target is which is a while off. It is shifting that way, isn't it?
ANDREW WALLACE, MEMBER FOR FISHER: Well, I think first Tom, the Labor Party's cold war on climate change has now turned into open conflict. And you know Joel Fitzgibbon has come out, he's laid down the gauntlet to Anthony Albanese, what I'm hearing around my electorate and the places that I go to, is that workers are feeling absolutely abandoned by the ideological zealotry of the Labor Party. Now, you know, the Labor Party of today is a just a shadow of its former self. They don't care about workers anymore. What they are absolutely focused on is one thing and one thing only and that's climate change ideals so I mean
CONNELL: But okay what do you mean by that? What policy do they have at the moment that is ideological zealotry?
WALLACE: Well, that's all they want to talk about.
CONNELL: But what policy is it?
WALLACE: That is all climate change is all they talk about. They are not supporting their base. And that is looking after their workers. I mean, 30 years ago, they were absolutely focused on looking after the workers and now we've had to step into that bridge. And we are providing legislation that looks after workers. So what I am here, what the Australian workers are telling us at the last election and the election before that, is that they have the Labor Party has lost faith with workers
CONNELL: But how for example, does cutting penalty rates help workers?
WALLACE: Well, Tom, that's very easy to look at one particular issue, one particular item
CONNELL: Pretty big one, if you're out there, earning a salary.
WALLACE: We are absolutely focused on ensuring that we have an industrial relations scheme that works for both workers and employers.
CONNELL: Okay, can I just round this off though? So 2050 net zero is the one policy Labor has on climate at the moment. That's not ideological zealotry is it?
WALLACE: We agreed in the Paris Agreement. We are good. Australia is a good international citizen. We agree we met our Kyoto targets by 430 million tonnes. We are meeting and we will beat our outstanding commitments in the Paris Agreement. And in the Paris agreement we agreed as the rest of the world did to get our carbon emissions to zero in the second half.
CONNELL: But is that ideological zealotry to have net zero by 2050?
WALLACE: It’s not just a matter of the policy it’s what you focus on.
CONNELL: I understand that but I’m just-
WALLACE: And what the Labor Party are focused on is, is climate change and nothing else and look, hang on this is not just me saying this.
CONNELL: I'm just asking this question, though.
WALLACE: This is not just me saying this
CONNELL: Is 2050 net zero ideological zealotry?
WALLACE: It's the way that they concentrate on that and nothing else. It's almost as though it's the only show in town. And that's what we're seeing from what Joel is saying, Joel is trying to introduce a bit of sensibility to Labor party policy.
CONNELL: Let's talk about relationships between Ministers or MPs and staffers as well, one of the things Scott Morrison shared yesterday is the Greens and Labor should look at a similar ban. Does that make sense?
MURPHY: I don't have any issue with that it's, you know, the way the Prime Minister often works is to try to deflect attention by suggesting others should do something, I don't have any problem, and in fact, I am a fierce advocate for proper codes of conduct and proper behaviour, where people who are in positions of power do not exploit that to the detriment of others
WALLACE: Well why isn’t Labor-
MURPHY: because we're not in government Andrew. you're in government. Just let me finish this because this is a really important point. And it shouldn't be a partisan issue. And that was my point about what Mr. Morrison said, I don't have an issue with the idea that everyone should be signing up to behaving properly in the workplace. I have an issue with this being turned into a partisan issue. Watching the Four Corners report on Monday night, as a woman who 20 years ago worked in this
parliament has worked in it again recently and is now elected to this parliament- one of the overwhelming feelings that I had was feeling so sorry for those women who felt that they had to expose themselves in the way they did on Four Corners in order to raise an important issue. And it's a conversation that is difficult. And that means we need to engage in it. And we need to engage it in a serious way, not political point scoring.
CONNELL: Okay, but just that direct question, so you would support that if that were a move? I mean, the Labor Party could introduce it itself?
MURPHY: Well we can’t introduce Ministerial standards of conduct. Well we’ve certainly come a long way and has done a lot of work about respectful relationships. And I can tell you, as I said, as someone who was in this building 20 years ago, and is in this building now, culture has improved out of sight as it should have. I am not against anything that we might do for our own party that would set standards of appropriate behaviour. And that's a conversation for people to have
CONNELL: But whether it's a Minister or a Shadow Minister, the same rules should apply?
MURPHY: I don't have any problem, as I said, with having a code of conduct internally that make sure that these things don't happen. No one should feel that they are under pressure.
WALLACE: But why stop there? Why stop at Ministers or Shadow Ministers? You know, it doesn't matter whether you are a Minister or Shadow Minister, you as a backbencher even and myself talking the collective you. We are in a position of great privilege as an employer, there is always that power imbalance between employer and in what case what can often be young women. And that power imbalance should not be-
CONNELL: So that should apply to the Liberal Party too?
WALLACE: Absolutely.
CONNELL: Well it doesn't at the moment… but you’re saying it should?
WALLACE: Look, the PM said yesterday that this is something that we should have across the board. He did say that in parliament.
MURPHY: Andrew and I aren’t arguing about this. It’s a workplace, everyone in a workplace has the right to feel safe.
WALLACE: The question is how you enforce it, when it's not the executive. I mean, you know, look at… what would happen if I don't as a backbencher, or as Peta as a backbencher doesn't abide by that.
CONNELL: Because you don’t lose your seats so what do you lose?
WALLACE: Where's the stick? That's the problem that as backbenchers. But you know, this is something that we could look at.
CONNELL: And you would be comfortable with that across the board, if you’re an MP, no matter what MP, you have staff.

WALLACE: it’s the same workplace. Same workplace, same principles. 
MURPHY: It’s a workplace and Tom the other issue, of course, is continuing to push for this place and politics to be more gender equal. And that also makes a difference when you have young men who are staffers as well as young women, and when you have more women who are parliamentarians, as well as men, you know, you have more of a culture where people are regarded as working colleagues. And I think that is very important. And Andrew and I aren’t arguing about this we're agreeing about that.
WALLACE: I do want to get this plug in.
CONNELL: Just briefly, because I'm getting in trouble at the moment.
WALLACE: Peta and I serve on Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee, which I’m the chair of that committee, and we're doing an inquiry in relation to domestic violence at the moment. Domestic Violence is endemic in our community. And one of the greatest causes of domestic violence is the inequality of the sexes.
MURPHY: Everyone says it.
WALLACE: Yeah, everyone says that. And where you have that power balance between employer and employee, then there needs to be certain controls or restrictions in place for conduct. That's all we're saying. And I don't think you'd take issue with that.
MURPHY: Absolutely, absolutely not.
CONNELL: We are right out of time. Peta. Andrew, good to talk in person.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.