Sky News AM Agenda (29)

15 June 2017



KIERAN GILBERT: With me on the program now, the Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers. The Financial Review front page "Clean Coal or Bust for the Prime Minister's Plan" - that pretty much sums it up that they will have to have some sort of coal mechanism in there. You had a senior role as an adviser during the Rudd Government and they put in tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions of dollars into clean coal. Why isn't Labor open to that now?


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Carbon capture and storage is what you're referring to and it's really at the R&D stage rather than at the commercial stage. It's a long way off being a decent commercial proposition. It's true that Labor in Government explored carbon capture and storage technology, because it's something that could be researched and developed for the future. But in terms of our energy needs right now, it's a bit embarrassing really for Malcolm Turnbull to try and redefine coal as clean energy to placate Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce and all of their colleagues in the party room, who are tearing apart his leadership.


GILBERT: Senator Zeselja points out though that a number of other countries in our region and around the world are using new generation coal. Given our supply of coal, why can't we look at that? At least have that as an option?


CHALMERS: The only reason Malcolm Turnbull's looking at that is because they're having yet another punch-on in the party room about energy.  While they have that punch on and while the Prime Minister fails to lead, we've got power prices going up, we've got pollution going up and we've got jobs disappearing. We've said all along that we're up for a conversation about genuinely securing energy, getting prices down, reducing our emissions as well. The model proposed by Finkel was not our preferred model, but we're prepared to negotiate on it. And instead we have this unedifying spectacle of the Prime Minister trying to pretend that coal is clean energy when it's not.


GILBERT: Just quickly on the idea of buying the international permits - they're down as low as $2 - this is something apparently being argued strongly by Angus Taylor within the Government. What are your thoughts on that? Is that a way forward?


CHALMERS: I saw those reports and that's always been part of the discussion, but the reality is unless we have a market-based mechanism, which encourages renewable energy all of these other considerations are secondary.


GILBERT: With the media reforms to go to Parliament, are you comfortable with Labor's position on this given, given how challenged the environment is right now? You look at Channel Ten, they're going through some dramas.


CHALMERS: Of course I'm comfortable with our position and we support the majority of the proposals that the Government's put forward, partly because we proposed them in the first place. We even offered to pass last year - Michelle Rowland and other colleagues - offered to pass the 75 per cent rule and other parts of the media reform package. So we've played a constructive role all along, including on licence fees, which is one of the things that Channel Ten nominated yesterday in its press release announcing their decision. We don't support changing the two-out-of-three rule for very good reasons and they revolve around media diversity in this country; media ownership in this country is already too concentrated.


GILBERT: But do you accept that every major executive in the industry supports the change? Why not get on with it? Accept them as the experts?


CHALMERS: In terms of getting on with it, we haven't seen the legislation. We haven't even had our Shadow Minister, Michelle Rowland, briefed on the legislation. We've said in principle what we're prepared to support. We've played a constructive role. We've proposed a lot of the changes in the Government's package. There's one that we don't support for very good reason. But the Government keeps telling us to get on with something when they haven't even been able to give us the legislation or a briefing on the legislation.


GILBERT: The last question relates to the debt levels in Australia. We're going to see it hit a mark that we haven't seen before, I think it's tomorrow in fact. Does Labor accept any of the accountability here given the Government says that the spending that they've reined in, the trajectory was locked in by the former Government.


CHALMERS: Well tomorrow for the first time in Australia's history, we crash through half-a-trillion dollars in gross debt. And that debt has been accumulating faster under the Liberals without a GFC than it did under Labor with a GFC. And that gives you a sense really of the depth of their failure to keep their main promise to the Australian people, which is to rein in the debt in this country.


GILBERT: They say it's a slog, it's a gradual thing. They'll eventually turn it around.


CHALMERS: Australians are getting slogged, because they're paying the price in higher interest repayments for gross debt, which doesn't just crash through half-a-trillion tomorrow, it keeps rising - $606 billion by the end of the forwards, $725 billion at the end of 10 years and still rising. There's no peak in sight. And they said that their main reason for being was to arrest skyrocketing debt and they've failed their own test.


GILBERT: Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers, as always appreciate your time.