SUBJECTS: Returning Australians; Gas announcement; Labor policy platform. 
TOM CONNELL, HOST: Joining me live now to discuss this and other issues, my pollie panel, Liberal MP Andrew Wallace and from the Labor party Peta Murphy. Thanks both for your time. This plan put forward, Peta, by the Labor party, does it really address the issue? The issue is quarantine spots, I mean there’s countless reports of people being bumped off near empty flights because it’s quarantine. So, planes don’t really fix the issue, do they?
PETA MURPHY, MEMBER FOR DUNKLEY: They do in part because we also are hearing, of course, that people can’t pay for a business class or a first class ticket, they’re just not getting onto the flight. But also, there may be an issue with quarantine but this government is in control of Australia’s borders, it’s in control of the quarantine situation and we really do need it to act. I’ve got countless constituents who are stuck overseas and one of them is a 26 year old who went to Dubai to work at the world expo which got cancelled. She has no job, no income, no savings, is really suffering from anxiety, no family and she’s in Dubai. It’s a fundamental job of a government to help its citizens who are abroad.
CONNELL: But let’s just clarify the issue, you say people can’t afford the business class fares, that’s because economy fares are being bumped, its because the planes are empty because there are no quarantine spots. It’s the quarantine that needs sorting.
MURPHY: Well, if quarantine needs sorting, then the federal government should sort it. And the federal government send flights to get people home as quickly as possible and it should sort the issue. Its clearly and squarely a federal government responsibility and there are tens of thousands of Australian citizens, many of whom are in really dire straits overseas who need to come home. 
CONNELL: Well just on the quarantine issues, Andrew Wallace, yes its up to the states at the moment but it could be up to the federal government, Christmas Island was used early in the pandemic, there’s talk of detention centres, the Northern Territory government is up for this. Should the government address this as an urgent issue?
WALLACE: Well look, no one would quibble with the fact that we want to get as many Australians as we can, back to Australia. We’ve got around 20,000 Australians currently overseas. The National Cabinet agreed some months ago that the state would be responsible for quarantining returning Australians and international visitors. That was the agreed point. Now at the moment, we’ve got states like Queensland that are only permitting 500 people per week, New South Wales government is doing the vast bulk of the heavily lifting in allowing 2,450 people a week, Victoria is zero and I suppose that’s understandable to some extent. But where you have states like Queensland that are totally underutilising the resources that they have. We’ve got the Cairns international airport, we’ve got Brisbane international airport, Gold Coast, all of these places have the ability to be able to take in far more international returned Australians or visitors. We’ve got hotel rooms,
CONNELL: It’s the ability to quarantine and not just the room, so again, we understand what you say about the states, we know where the states are at right now. Is it time that for the federal government say let’s look at Christmas Island, let’s look at detention centres, army bases?
WALLACE: Look, that is a matter that will no doubt be discussed at national cabinet on Friday. But up until now, the agreement with the federal and state governments and territory governments has been that the states would be shouldering this responsibility. So it’s a bit rich for the leader of the opposition to be talking about, you know, this thought bubble of his, of sending RAAF aircraft. The issue is not how we get people here, the issue is how we deal with them in quarantine in Australia. And up until now, that’s been the agreed responsibility of the states.
CONNELL: Agreed responsibility of the states, we saw Christmas Island used at the start of the pandemic, we’ll see what else can be done. I do want to move on.
MURPHY: We can’t have the national
CONNELL: Sorry Peta, we want to whip through a bit.
CONNELL: I understand that sorry, I’m going to move on, I want to get some more opinions. The plan outlined by the Prime Minister yesterday, big focus on gas, Peta Murphy, Labor did have its own plan for more gas extraction at the last election, what do you make of this?
MURPHY: Well, let’s see where it goes, we know Scott Morrison is incredibly good at making announcements, we’d like to see some follow through on some of his announcements and, you know, how many energy policies has this government now announced? (Inaudible) It’s interesting that they are actually talking about manufacturing, I haven’t heard them talk about manufacturing for a very long time apart from maybe saying goodbye to industries like the car industry. So let’s see whether or not they’ve actually got a plan that they’ll put into practice.
CONNELL: But what do you make of it? Yes, you say we’ll see what the actual plan is clearly they’re sketching out where they’re going, a huge focus on gas, this would lock in gas as a big part of Australia’s landscape for a long time to come. Does Labor agree with that?
MURPHY: We know that there is a role for gas and we’re waiting to see in some respects before we say what the government’s policy, whether it will work or not, what the details are. Again, you know, very good at high level announcements from the Prime Minister but not so good at implementation. We also know that renewables are the future and we have to have an economy that looks to invest in renewables because it’s not just good for the environment, it’s good for the economy and its good for jobs.
CONNELL: All right
MURPHY: And that’s what we need, we need jobs and we need them now not off into the future.
CONNELL: So, when we talk about gas as transition, the end goal is renewables, Andrew Wallace, do we hear enough about renewables? Helping them get into the system more, yes gas can firm them up but so can batteries too. Was that a part missing from this announcement?
WALLACE: Well I think batteries can only do so much based on the energy produced by renewables. The reality is that we need dispatchable, we need reliable and we need economical power generation and with AGL’s announcement several years ago about sending Liddell offline, the market has had an opportunity to provide, or at least put in place the planning for, that dispatchable power. But that hasn’t developed so, the Prime Minister was absolutely right to say that in circumstances where that dispatchable power will not be online then if the energy providers wont step in, then the federal government will. We are absolutely driven to ensure that our manufacturing sector, that employs 850,000 Australians, that we keep those people in work. I mean, we are looking at an environment now, as a result of the covid pandemic that a lot of people have lost their jobs and those people who have kept their jobs, we want to make sure that that remains the case.
CONNELL: Let me ask you this though, there’s a seven month deadline now to get this dispatchable power into the grid, it appears though it has to be gas for some reason, If someone can come along with a solution that firm renewables and that is dispatchable power, should the government be true to its word that it’s agnostic on power sources?
WALLACE: Well Tom, provide me with an example of dispatchable power that doesn’t matter what’s happening out there, whether its night time or no wind, that will be able to provide our steel smelters with the sort of constant power that they need. Irrespective of whether the sun’s shining, irrespective of whether the wind is blowing.
CONNELL: Well that all depends on the size of your battery network. That’s what makes things firm. That’s pretty straight forward isn’t it?
WALLACE: Well, how big do you want your batteries? So, the question is gas provides
CONNELL: Isn’t it up to a bid. So, if that’s not economical, fine, but why not open it up?
WALLACE: Well, we have some of the largest resources of gas on the eastern seaboard of Australia. What we need is for the states to end their moratoriums, to give Queensland their credit they have managed their gas resources well.
CONNELL: We have a huge amount of coal, does that mean we have to use that for power sources as well?
WALLACE: Well, I mean, gas provides energy, dispatchable energy, at a fraction of the CO2 emissions of coal and we can do it now.
CONNELL: No, I get that, but you’re saying well we’ve got gas there we should use it essentially seems to be the argument.
WALLACE: Because we have large resources of it, it’s a low emitter of CO2 and its an excellent transition fuel. It is right for the government to say to the energy market that unless you provide that dispatchable power, then we will step in and provide it.
CONNELL: And just finally, Peta Murphy, your thoughts on the Labor policy platform which suggests no target 2030, 2035, no short-term climate target, is this argument just too hard to win now with voters for Labor?
MURPHY: We’ve got a clear policy of net zero emissions by 2050 and what you’re talking about is a draft policy platform.
CONNELL: That’s 30 years away
MURPHY: That’s gone out for consultation. It’s pretty difficult when we’re governed by a government that isn’t doing what needs to be done to reduce emissions at a fast enough pace. We should be setting a target right now. I’m sure you will hear more from Labor as we head towards the next federal election.
CONNELL: You can’t set a target in 15 years time because of what the government’s now, that’s what you’re saying?
WALLACE: Correct.
MURPHY: Well, the government is in charge and it’s not doing a good enough job, its not an election today, you’ll be hearing a lot more from Labor about the detail of our policies as we head into an election campaign. We’ll be very happy to debate them (Inaudible) but there needs to be a bit of focus at the moment on the fact that this government is presiding over a climate disaster and needs to do more now.
CONNELL: Alright, we’ll have to leave it there, Peta Murphy, Andrew Wallace, thank you.


Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.