Here is a very lightly edited transcript of the recent interview with the Greens leader Adam Bandt on the Energy Insiders podcast.
You can listen to the podcast here.
Giles Parkinson 00:00
Adam Bandt, thank you very much for joining in the Energy Insiders podcast.
Adam Bandt 00:04
Thanks for having me on.
Giles Parkinson 00:06
It’s the end of what, by any means, has been quite an extraordinary week in politics and a stressful and exhausting one for many people both in and out of the political arena.
Before we go and get you to outline or remind our listeners where exactly the Greens stand on Climate and Energy Policy, I did have one question which kind of arises from the last week, and this has been remarked by some people, this lack of curiosity, this failure to read documents and and to get full briefings.
It just occurred to me, I wondered, we have a government, which is taking us towards a certain direction, where, while the whole world is thinking about this clean energy transition, and zero emissions and the electrification of transport – we hear that from investors, from economists, from engineers, from big companies – our government, federal government seems to be going in the opposite direction. I’m just wondering, do we still attribute this to a lack of curiosity about documentation and hard research? Or do you think it’s still a matter of ideology?
Adam Bandt 01:15
Yeah, I think it’s more malevolent. And I think they know full well what they’re doing. And I think it’s a large part to do with, with corporate donations, with political donations, and the fact that, you know, just in the last 12 months, Liberal and Labor took about a million dollars from fossil fuel companies. And I think there’s a revolving door, certainly between the government and the ministerial advisors and the fossil fuel industry.
So I think there’s a big element of corporate capture by the existing interests, and they exercise their influence through political donations. And they’re largely those those existing big incumbents are largely getting what they paid for. And so I think the government knows full well, what it’s doing, and is choosing to take us in a different direction, because of that influence.
Giles Parkinson 02:07
How do we break that, apart from voting in another government?
Adam Bandt 02:12
Well, I think elections are obviously important, and voting is critical. And the only time that we’ve seen pollution come down in these countries, when Greens and Labor and Independents cooperated, and we put the price on pollution, and we got the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA into existence, along with some other things like the Carbon Farming Initiative, and it worked. And we had world leading legislation in this country.
Along came those fossil fuel industries, and Tony Abbott and Rupert Murdoch, and together they tore down parts of it, but not all of it. I think there is now a much greater appetite than perhaps there even was in 2010, and certainly than there was in 2013, for action on climate. And I think the next election, in particular is going to be one to watch. Because we’ve got, I think there’s a real chance of another power share in parliament.
Especially when you look at the crossbench that we’ve got sitting in the parliament and my independent colleagues we’ve got sitting alongside me who have got climate policies that are that in many instances are very science based, and they come from regional and city electorates.
I think with a finely balanced parliament, like we’ve got at the moment, and with a cross bench, including the Greens, but also some Independents that are very forward leaning on climate and renewables, I reckon there’s a real chance that next election could be one that unlocks some pretty significant action in Australia.
David Leitch 03:39
So Adam, I might ask, just quickly in this current parliament, and there’s always hope for other Parliament’s but in this current parliament, there’s the Climate Change Bill. What do you, Yeah, I guess we few of us think it’s got much realistic chance of progressing at the moment.
Adam Bandt 03:56
Well, I think, you never know, in politics, you push and push and push and they say no, and no and no. And then all of a sudden, they turn around and say yes, and pretend it was their idea all along.
That’s certainly been the Greens experience on a number of issues. And outside of the energy sector, things like Marriage Equality, or an Independent Corruption Commission, all of those things were pushed for ages. And they said no, and then they turned around and adopted it and pretended it was their policy.
And I feel that at the moment, I feel more optimistic about climate action and renewables action in Australia at the start of this year, or in 2021, then I have for some time. I think, with the election of Biden in the US and with the the shift that’s taking place in some of the state governments.
I just feel increasingly that the Prime Minister has thoroughly mispositioned himself on this and is rapidly playing catch up. And now we’ve talked about you know, the lack of carbon tariffs being introduced against countries like Australia and a carbon price, now being that the lack of a carbon price in Australia now being a threat to our exporters and a threat to our agricultural industry, the fact that we’re so far behind, it feels to me that the stars are aligning in a way that they haven’t for a while.
And I think if you look at what Boris Johnson has done in the United Kingdom, and he’s really, he’s a Conservative government that I don’t agree with on pretty much most things, but has come out and called for 68% cuts by in emissions by 2030. And that probably might have been unthinkable a year ago. And you might say, is he doing it because it’s a way of distracting attention from the performance in the pandemic, or ais he doing it for the good reasons of trying to recover from the pandemic.
In a sense, I don’t think it really matters. And if we can bring pressure to bear, then I hope that there’s the prospect, even before the next election, of forcing a bit of a shift from this government. But I do think the way that we’re going to get the action that the science needs is by turfing them out and putting the Greens in balance of power.
David Leitch 06:05
Yes. So I’ll just grab one more quick thing before I hand back to Giles and I will observe in passing that Australia exports about $20 billion worth of goods and services to Europe. And of that totaled $7 billion represents gold, which Boston Consulting Group identified as one of the products where profits would be most impacted were a carbon tax to be introduced. And then you mentioned Biden, and then of course, we’re going to see tomorrow, China’s most newest attempts at what they’re going to do. And then there’s the European Green Deal as well.
So there’s certainly a lot of happening internationally. But if we talk about, I hesitate to use the phrase real politic and the Greens have been, I won’t say stuck, but have achieved a level of 10%. And that’s great nationally, and we know the 70% National support, say for things on climate change.
But when push comes to shove in the lower house, it gets down to Queensland, and there’s no more, you know, Scott Morrison is only doing what the Queensland members of cabinet and Parliament want him to do.
And they’re the biggest block of the coalition in Parliament and they essentially run the party. And I don’t see that it matters that much what the rest of everyone else wants so long as that’s the case. I just wondered if you had a succinct view on that.
Adam Bandt 07:29
Well in many respects, you’re right. But in other respects, the government wants to hold on to power and they’re losing seats to people, like Zali Steggall where it was formerly held by Tony Abbott, so now, you know, just think about that shift.
And there are also, I was campaigning here in inner city Melbourne at the last election and in the seat of Kooyong where the Greens were in with a shot of winning that seat, came very close to, the government spent a million dollars to hold that seat, and they told everyone how much they loved renewable energy and and were taking action on climate change.
And I think there’s a bit of a misnomer that climate change somehow cost Labor the last election or somehow that the Liberals, that if it was a referendum on climate change, that somehow the result suggests that people don’t want to take action.
I think the opposite happened. I think that going into the last election, the coalition was very well aware not only of seats in Queensland, but also seats in inner city, Sydney, or inner city, Melbourne, where there were conservative constituents who wanted climate action.
And the Prime Minister stopped his outright climate denialism. And all of a sudden turned around and started saying, Oh, I actually care about climate action. But don’t worry, I’m taking I’m taking steps to fix it.
And I think that both the coalition and Labor run the risk of trying to rerun the last election next time around and I think things have moved on, and I think that they’ve got a they’ve got to win seats, not only in Queensland, but right across the country. And I don’t think that same kind of denialism is gonna wash again.
Giles Parkinson 09:16
What do you make of the latest moves with the Labor Party? They’ve shunted Mark Butler out of the portfolio and back to Health and replaced him with Chris Bowen, the former Treasury spokesman.
Is that a step forward? A step back? Is it too early to know and what do you think your chances are, if there is a balance of power or if Greens are going to be able to hold a balance of power of creating a constructive dialogue and arrangement with themin a new parliament?
Adam Bandt 09:43
Well, with respect to the first question, you know, when Joel Fitzgibbon gets what he wants, it’s not really a good thing. And he has managed to not only shift who has the Climate Portfolio in Labor but also what they stand for, and we’re seeing that policy now, the draft policy, going to the Labor Conference, that is explicitly endorsing the opening up of new gas projects.
Now in the middle of a climate emergency, there is no scope to open up new gas fields. The discussion should be about how do we phase out existing coal and gas.
And instead, we now have basically Labor and Liberal taking draft policies or in formal government policies to say, let’s, let’s open up even more gas projects. And we are talking about countries worth of emissions in the Beetaloo Basin alone if that project is able to, if that is ever unlocked, and we’ve just had an update to the way the government calculates its own emissions figures, that starts to take account of the real climate damage caused by methane that is basically saying an additional six months worth of pollution added to Australia’s accounts.
So I’m very, very disappointed that is that both Labor and liberal are putting their foot on the gas. And also, what gets me about one of the things that gets me about the gas and the gas led recovery from Morrison, all the talk about gas from Labor, is that they’re not talking about gas, instead of coal, they’re talking about gas as well as coal.
There’s still no plan from Liberal or Labor to phase out existing coal fired power stations, which is the biggest barrier to getting us to 100% renewables and also to bring down our pollution.
In terms of what would happen in a shared power parliament. I think there’s again, I feel quite optimistic about that because I feel that whatever is said by Liberal and Labor during the course of an election campaign, when we are in shared power, parliament, and the reality of this Biden /Kerry world where you have the head of, you know, the United States saying, calling climate change an existential crisis, and also this understanding from John Kerry that we can’t open up new gas fields, and that all science based targets need to be worked around two degrees.
And the thing that gives me some hope is that there is still a commitment to the Paris Agreement, there is still a commitment to those two or one and a half degree goals. And I feel that from that perspective, we could actually work quite well with Labor and perhaps with some climate friendly independents, if we needed to, to get something that is in accordance with the science.
Giles Parkinson 12:27
Maybe lets just take this opportunity to do what we were planned to do at the start, which is actually just give us the top headlines of the Greens policy. I mean, it’s my understanding is it’s the, it’s the 1.5 degrees out of Paris climate, it’s 350 parts per million, it’s 100% renewables as soon as possible.
I don’t know whether you’ve actually got a date for that, or whatever. Have I got that bit wrong?
Adam Bandt 12:50
No, no, ours is based around, still working towards, keeping , limiting global warming to below one and a half degrees, and hopefully we can do that without significant overshoot. And I know that some of works being done on that at the moment, but certainly the science is now there’s a chance of doing that without significant overshoot.
And so that means 75% reduction in Australia’s emissions by 2030, and net zero by 2035. That would be targets consistent with one and a half degrees, which of course is what our, amongst other things our Pacific Island neighbours are saying is an existential threat for them. Get to 100% renewables within electricity by 2030 with a regulated coal phase out, so a timetable for the phase out of our coal fired power stations between now and 2030.
And also by for us, 2030 is a key date, and by then there’ll be 100%. of new vehicle sales being electric by 2030, as well. And key for us to, you mentioned exports at the start, is that this decade, between now and 2030, we have to also phase out thermal coal exports between now and 2030.
We just know that they’re being burnt around the world at an unsustainable rate in a way that harms Australia and harms the rest of the world as well. And we obviously want to see an expansion of storage in particular and we put forwards, we proposed legislated storage targets at the large scale and at the small scale and one of the best things about is you could fund a lot of it just by stopping subsidising the fossil fuel industry.
So apart from the diesel fuel rebate for farmers, and there’s a there’s a rationale for that saying we want to phase out fossil fuel subsidies in part to help fund the transition to to meet the targets I’ve just spoken about.
David Leitch 14:43
So you know, those policies all sound reasonably sensible, and I’m sure you’d have something to say about electric vehicles and other things as well that would be equally sensible.
In politics, my understanding and I should declare an interest in that my Dad who died in 1988 was a state member in New South Wales, It does seem to me that Australia is very much a middle ground type of electorate and the Green vote has been on about 10% for a long time.
And I guess people vote Green because they liked the environmental policies but you know, if I just talk broadly about what your ambitions are for the Greens to grow their vote, I mean, you know, one thing that gets talked about sometimes is Labor and the Greens should get closer together.
I’m sure you two see each other as mortal enemies on another front. There’s been lots of divisiveness in state Greens, particularly New South Wales, and what I would regard as some fairly fringe policies in historically, that’s me.
I just wondered if you could comment generally on what what what your broader agenda is for, for broadening the appeal of the Greens to the electorate?
Adam Bandt 15:52
Well ,I think the experience in the ACT has been terrific, where you’ve got Labor and Greens, who have held government now for a number of years, and the Greens have had a number of ministry positions, which has just expanded after we grew our seats from two to six at the last election.
Where you have a Labor Chief Minister, and you have the Greens running a number of portfolios, including the Energy portfolio and the ACT has got to 100% renewables, they’re tackling gas, they’ve got a big EV strategy and people like it, and we’re continuing to get get returned.
And so and one of the things that that I want, and you look across at New Zealand, for example, as well, where you’ve got that level of cooperation happening, and it’s bearing results, and one of the things that I remind people in Melbourne, but the message I guess I want to take across the country is that, you know, going back to that 2010 parliament, when we work together, we, did either of us get exactly what we wanted? No! But did we write the first chapter in Australia’s Emissions Reduction and take up of renewables?
Absolutely, we did. And I think there was a lot said about that time, including in the Murdoch press, and so on. But looking back at it, it was the time that we brought down pollution.
And so that message, I think, to say to people where it won’t work without us being in that position of balance of power, because otherwise everything will just revert to type, and they’ll get their own way, but put us there and we can deliver. That’s the message that I’ll be taking that I hope will help us grow our vote.
David Leitch 17:36
The types of 100% renewables by 2030 and 100% electric cars. I mean, they’re the ones that I endorse. But I’m just wondering whether you’re confident that Australia still has the smarts and the capacity to actually achieve that scale of transition in what is a rapidly decreasing timeframe?
Adam Bandt 17:56
Yeah, of course we do. Absolutely. And this is the thing that, you know, the government talks about the Technology Roadmap, the technologies there. Like the technology exists.
What we need is a plan to put it in place and costs of renewables have come down so substantially, as I’m sure your listeners know, that it’s now making significant economic sense to do it as well. And you look at then all of the car makers who’ve now pledged that by 2030, or 2035, they’re only going to be selling electric vehicles. And you only have to discuss forward a decade and think that the alternative for Australia is that we become the world’s dumping ground for dirty polluting cars that no one else wants.
And there’s a very, very real risk, I think that Australia is going to be left behind. And I think getting that message out there that the rest of the world is moving and we’ve got the opportunity, we got some significant opportunities, but also some significant downside risks if we don’t act is key, and when the government, the current government dismantled the automotive assistance scheme that was keeping some of the big car makers here, we pushed strongly to say, look, let’s let’s find some budget savings by repurposing some of it that you’ve already accounted for, and put it into supporting the manufacturer of electric vehicles here in Australia and the government didn’t want to know about it.
And now all of a sudden, post COVID, that the talk is about our manufacturing self sufficiency and they’ve missed some, some great opportunities to do that along the way. But as to your point about the state of the Australian public, I think people really like it when Australia punches above its weight.
I think people love the institutions like CSIRO are still still have massive public support and the idea that we could make make electric cars here or make components that are used in electric cars here around the world and that that would be a the kind of manufacturing industry that we could have that that is high value.
I think people would love that idea personally, and you know, I speak as someone who came from a family where it was, it was a Bandt that invented the ute, and the idea of the if you go outside, down, head outside on the bypass outside Geelong, you’ll go past the Lewis Bandt bridge.
And I think, you know, Australia’s innovation, when it comes to the car and vehicles is something that I take pretty personally, and I think we could do it again.
David Leitch 20:20
You remind me, it’s great to hear those stories. I love to hear about the Lewis Bandt bridge and stuff like that. And Australian knowhow and I think many Australians know that. And Australians want to vote for some people that are going to achieve things and have goals and ambitions and do have an agenda provided doesn’t go too far.
And you mentioned it, I just wondered, just briefly, beyond the energy policy landscape, what about in regard to policies in regard to say, education and the arts and other areas that I feel the major parties like the Liberal and the Labor Party both seem to have ignored, what you might call the very broad fourth and fifth estates of people.
Adam Bandt 21:05
Teaching is a low emissions job. And I mean, we should we should expand and push for free education and expand teaching and education, which is part of the Greens policy is to wind back those subsidies that were given to the big polluting industries and instead invest it in the smart care and education based low emissions industries, which Yes, include energy, but also include things like teaching, expanding aged care.
The money’s there, if we have the guts to stand up to those big corporations on the fossil fuel side, who at the moment get to write policy, and get to write themselves some pretty hefty meal tickets, courtesy the public purse. But again, what what kind of country we’re going to be in the 21st century?
I don’t want us to be to wake up in 10 years time to find we’re a hollow, hollowed out quarry that the rest of the world doesn’t want to talk to. We need to have something to sell the rest of the world. And this is where also, I think there’s opportunities. And I say this as a Green, I think there’s opportunities in some of our mining areas, not in a fossil fuel based areas, but in things like lithium.
We’ve got the capacity to be mining and value adding here and then exporting products to a zero carbon world. But we’ve also got the opportunity to make sure that we look after each other in this wealthy country. And that is, as I say, another way of actually bringing down emissions as well.
Giles Parkinson 22:32
Adam, I’ve just been Googling Lewis Bandt, as you’ve been speaking and it’s fascinating: The kangaroo chaser I think this ute was called? What’s the link? Is it just a common name? Or is it part of the same family?
Adam Bandt 22:43
No, there’s a family connection. It’s a different side of the family to mine, but it all it all does stem from the same Bandts who originally arrived in South Australia getting off a ship from Germany back in the 1850s, and then spread out to different parts of the country.
And the story goes that someone came to him and said that they wanted something that could take the pigs to the market on Saturday and his wife to church on Sunday, and could someone please design a vehicle that would do it.
You know, sadly, he was only an employee of Ford so he didn’t get to enjoy the the riches that came from the development of the ute. But that’s as I understand the story.
Giles Parkinson 23:25
I’m just hoping then that maybe the arrival of the electric ute, and we might see that in the form of a Rivian or even the Tesla in a couple of years time, may actually be that sort of transformative thing that needs to happen in the Australian market to make that transition that you’ve been talking about.
I’ve got a couple of questions. And David might have one or two more. But I’m just fascinated by what your assessment is of what’s happening at state levels.
It seems extraordinary now that we actually have the most ambitious policies coming from the South Australian and the Tasmanian government, both of them Liberal, possibly both of them benefiting from the fact that they don’t have any coal industries in their in their local in the local states, and we’ve just recently seen Zak Kirkup from the WA liberals.
Now he acknowledges he doesn’t have a snowflake’s chance in hell of actually winning the election, but he did come up with 100% renewable policy by 2030 and coal out the door by 2025. What’s happening there? And why isn’t there that connect at federal level?
Adam Bandt 24:24
Yeah, good question. And again, the the ACT government, the Greens and Labor there, have kind of led the way and have been right out in front. And so I would say it’s at that state level. That’s where it has been led. And now some of the others are moving towards that, which I think is great. And whoever wants to move towards it I think its great.
And in SA I think the picture is probably a little more complicated because a lot of the heavy lifting was done by the previous government, but it’s been continued by this one, which is to to the government’s credit, and I think that perhaps the you know, the massively falling cost of renewables, and the understanding of the opportunities, including potential export opportunities is, is starting to hit and as people think about what the Australian economy and what their own state’s economy might look like, they’re seeing the opportunities there.
Again, I don’t mind who’s who’s gonna follow the ACT’s lead, whether it’s Liberal or Labor, I think it’d be great. I’m just happy that they’re picking it up. And I do think that there’s, I think Queensland is lagging, I think Queensland labour is really lagging.
And I don’t think they’ve got a plan to make their targets. And I think that coming back to some of the points that were made before, I think there is still a grip of the old industries in Queensland, which again, given Queensland’s potential for exporting liquid hydrogen or potential for exporting even renewables, I think is very sad.
And again, I think it goes back to the power of money in politics. But yeah, if someone of whatever particular stripe wants to start working towards 100%, renewables, I’m all for it.
One caveat, though, can I just say about what is happening at the state level, is that it it’s easy to talk up renewables, but you also need a plan to pull out coal and gas, and like from the from the climate perspective, if we all we do is build renewables on top of existing coal and gas, then then the pollution continues. And it’s what distresses me.
And again, I think New South Wales here I would include the New South Wales Government in this is that they don’t have a plan to retire the coal fired power stations, other than just to leave it to them the nominal use by date, and that is pushed out so far past 2030, past even 2035 out into 2040, in some instances, that that takes us over the climate cliff.
So it’s ticks to those state governments that are taking action, but until you have a plan to phase out coal and gas, it’s not going to do what’s needed.
David Leitch 27:09
We’re gonna run out of time very shortly and grateful for your time, I just wanted to ask a more general question of, again, you know, you mentioned Australian manufacturing, which is a topic dear to my heart. And, you know, we always think that people vote for the economy as much as they vote for anything.
What in the Greens policy, you know, would cause, I don’t know, manufacturing industry to think that the Greens were a good good good party or the man in the street to think that the Greens would be good for the economy, leaving aside that there might be a carbon tax or whatever.
Adam Bandt 27:44
We want to set up a manufacturing Australia fund, in part based on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation model that is that will assist the development and commercialization of Australian manufacturing and including expanding Green steel and Green hydrogen.
We think there’s massive opportunities in Green steel. And conveniently, and fortunately, in a lot of the areas where the coal fired power stations have to be retired. And we’ve got really thought out plans to assist industry switch from gas, because I think getting off gas and onto electricity at the moment is going to save industry a lot of money. But at the moment, a lot of the barriers, including for upfront costs are there.
So there is what’s preventing it. And if government can step in and assist industry to fuel switch, then I think they’re going to we’re gonna save industry money, and also turn Australia into a place where you can come to to manufacture your goods, and know it’s powered by clean, cheap energy.
So we’ve thought through and have been advancing for some time a significant suite of manufacturing policies that I think would would do well for the country.
Giles Parkinson 28:55
I’ve got one final question, Adam, what’s your reading about when the next election will happen? And let’s say it does happen, when it does happen, if there is a hung parliament, the Greens can negotiate with Labor, what will be the top of your priorities?
Adam Bandt 29:11
We’re planning for it to happen this year. And the I don’t know whether that has whether anything that’s happened over the last month or two months is going to change that, but we’re working on the presumption that it’s going to happen this year and we were getting ourselves ready for that.
What’s going to be our top priorities, our top priority is going to be climate action. And we want, we think if we can get agreement to working towards a one and a half degree goal then things flow backwards from there.
Things like targets, things like the changes that we need to make, things like assistance that we need to give to our industry to transition all of those things flow backwards from there.
So that, plus making many of the big corporations at the moment that pay no tax and then go and get handouts for things like the Diesel Fuel rebate, making those big corporations that are largely fossil fuel exporters, users and exporters, making them pay their fair share of tax to help us fund the renewables transition.
Giles Parkinson 30:13
Excellent stuff. Adam Bandt thank you very much for joining the Energy Insiders podcast.
Adam Bandt 30:17
Thanks for having me on.