SKY News AM Agenda (3)

19 November 2015


SUBJECT/S: Syria; Closing the Justice Gap; Transition to Renewable Energy

KIERAN GILBERT: Gentlemen, good morning to you both. As we look at the aftermath of the Paris attacks, there's a lot of discussion about where to for Australian policy in that region, particularly in the fight against IS. Should we consider boots on the ground? Another Liberal saying we should today, Dan Tehan. Jim, what are your thoughts on that?

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES AND SUPERANNUATION: Look, I'm not convinced, Kieran, that it's the way forward for Australia in Syria. My view is that we're making a big contribution already. The case hasn't been made for that type of additional step. We support some of the progress that has been made as the effort to find a political solution intensifies in Syria. We support that. We don't think that a long-term plan that sees Assad still in power at the end of it is an acceptable one or one that will reach peace. But we do support some of the discussions that have been going on at the political level, rather than at the military level when it comes to boots on the ground.

GILBERT: Jim's position there very much in line with the Foreign Minister and with the Prime Minister, but there are others in your party like Dan Tehan and the former prime minister Mr Abbott who are saying that we should be considering special forces as an option in the US-led coalition.

SENATOR ZED SESELJA: Well, I think these things should be an option. There's a number of things here. When we look at a political solution, of course that is important, and the Prime Minister has been talking about that. But there are two different questions. You're not going to get a political solution with IS. IS aren't just going to have some sort of negotiated settlement, clearly, and so in the end there will be a military solution for Islamic State. And in order to do that, you've got to look at what are the best options for achieving that. At the moment, we've had airstrikes and they've been going for some time. Clearly they've had some impact, but perhaps not the kind of impact we would have hoped in terms of destroying IS. So if you are not achieving your military ends through airstrikes, then of course I think other options do need to be considered.

GILBERT:  What if those options then make the political solution more difficult, Zed Seselja. If you - for example, we've seen in the past you drive the local population into the arms of the territory by having a Western force in place?

SESELJA: Well let's look at that. Obviously, at the moment there are airstrikes. So you could make the same argument that there are airstrikes and that might drive people to the enemy. One of the things that could drive people to the enemy is if you don't have a clear strategy. If you come in, you've got airstrikes, but you're not prepared to commit. So those are the sort of things that do need to be considered, because the last thing we want is for people to be thinking that we're not serious or the West isn't serious or the US and Australia and others aren't serious, because nothing will drive people to Islamic State more than the feeling that the US isn't properly engaged.

GILBERT: And one thing we know for sure, Jim, given the shocking events of the last week or so is that this group, this self-described caliphate, that they now have a reach which is well and truly into the heart of Western cities.

CHALMERS: Definitely. And I think just to pick up on something that Zed said about showing that we're serious in that region, I think part of that is presenting a united front in our country. We do have the Labor Party working with the Coalition Government to ensure that we are hand-in-glove when it comes to our contribution in Northern Iraq and in Syria. We need to make sure that's the same within parties. But yes you're right. I mean, the reach of IS is a very troubling thing for governments and for people right around the world. It is good to see the success of the raids in Paris overnight. I think when you see that kind of news come out of Paris from the actions taken by the authorities, by the Police and the other agencies, you do spare a thought for those guys who participated in it. It's good to see reports coming out that those efforts were successful today, and anyone who has been touched by the tragedies in Paris - whether directly or emotionally - has an interest in seeing justice dished out, and I think an important step was taken towards that overnight.

GILBERT: Let's look at some other issues now - domestic politics, or domestic policy more accurately. Bill Shorten has given a speech overnight in which he's detailed, Jim Chalmers, some more elements to the Labor Party policy on closing the gap - particularly when it comes to incarceration rates of indigenous people. Can you talk us through the key points of this Labor policy, this Labor plan?

CHALMERS: Absolutely, Kieran. I think in a really crowded political and policy agenda in Australia we can never forget our responsibilities to the first Australians. Bill gave a really passionate, really important speech in Melbourne about the federal responsibilities to close the gap when it comes to indigenous disadvantage. It's my view, it's Bill's view, it's a lot of people's view that a country like ours should be judged on how its most vulnerable people fare. And so, our agenda here with the first Australians is crucial. One of the main points that Bill made in his speech was about incarceration rates and about justice. We do have a problem where indigenous men are fifteen times more likely to be incarcerated than non-indigenous men in this country. What we want to do is ensure that those justice elements are captured in the Closing the Gap targets. They're not currently. We need to put them back on the agenda because they really are an important marker of how the first Australians are faring in this country.

GILBERT: Senator Seselja, Bill Shorten pointing out - and pointing out quite rightly - a young indigenous man is more likely to go to jail than university. This remains a task for all policy-makers, doesn't it - to try and rein in this terrible gap?

SESELJA: Yeah, look it's a shocking statistic. I think there's a couple of points. One, I think I'm always open to the conversation. If the Opposition wants to put forward some constructive policy then I think we should take a look at it. I haven't seen all of the detail of what Bill Shorten had to say. But Kieran, I think it's fair to say that a lot of the things we've done in indigenous policy clearly haven't worked in many years. And that's not a partisan thing, that goes across if you look at some of the outcomes we're still getting. That's not to say there hasn't been some pretty good intent in a lot of the programs that have been put in place, but clearly a number of things haven't worked. I'm a big believer that where people don't have hope, where they don't have work, where they don't have a purpose in life, that is one of the most destructive things that can happen to a community - be it an indigenous community or another community. So where we can empower indigenous communities to have economic advancement, to have economic opportunities, to have job opportunities, a lot of other positive social outcomes flow from that. I think that's still at the heart of it. So I think what's being put forward is worth considering, but it has to be about empowering people to have purpose and positive opportunities in their lives.

GILBERT: Let's wrap up with a discussion on a story Lenore Taylor has in The Guardian today regarding a proposal from Frank Jotzo at ANU which would suggest on climate change and on dealing with power generators that generators would pay to close the dirtiest brown coal-fired plants. Jim Chalmers, what are your thoughts on this? It seems to make a bit of sense here because the generators themselves would gain. You close down the polluting generators and power plants, but without any real flow-on cost to government or taxpayers - no direct cost.

CHALMERS:  There are a lot of ideas around in this space - the so-called pay-for-closure cluster of ideas, and there are a lot of good ideas coming out of the ANU when it comes to renewable energy in particular. We're working on our policies. In the Labor Party, we're always concerned for the workers in the communities where these older power stations are, but we certainly support the transition away from dirtier energy to cleaner energy. That's why we've got that 50% renewable energy target by 2030. It's really pleasing to see the economics of renewable energy really starting to stack up such that the transition can be one that isn't just good for the planet, but also good for the economy - particularly here in Australia. So we support the transition. We're all ears when it comes to ideas pitched up from the ANU or elsewhere, and we're working on our policies for the next election.

GILBERT: Zed Seselja, your thoughts on this. Particularly when it comes to the high-polluting brown coal plants like those in the Latrobe valley?

SESELJA: Just one point quickly responding to Jim there. Once the economics of renewable energy stack up, then it really won't come much down to Government policy, it will come down to the market who will simply make those decision - be it on solar, or wind, or whatever.

CHALMERS: We want a market. We want emissions trading as a market solution.

SESELJA: You want a government intervention.

CHALMERS: You can't be for the market sometimes and not other times.

SESELJA: You want a government intervention, Jim. This is what you want

CHALMERS: You're intervening now by paying polluters to pollute.

SESELJA: I will finish this point.

CHALMERS: You're intervening now to pay polluters to pollute.

SESELJA: If the market works, it'll work. It won't need some grand government regulation.

CHALMERS: You're intervening right now, Zed. Billions of dollars of taxpayer money.

SESELJA: You're sensitive on this point Jim. It's extraordinary that you won't allow me to critique your particular position.

CHALMERS: You're intervening now Zed by giving billions of dollars to big polluters!

SESELJA: Jim, I can see your sensitivity.

CHALMERS: You haven't even read your own policy!

SESELJA: Maybe you don't want to talk about the 50% target which you haven't costed.

CHALMERS: I just talked about it.

SESELJA: If I can finish -

GILBERT: Just quickly.

SESELJA: If I can finish the point, Kieran. Once the market makes renewable energy, the market will make it work. You won't need large government programs. But I would say this. What's been put forward, my main concern would be eventually that would be thrown to electricity consumers. So there is a cost, and you do need to consider that before you adopt any of these policies.

GILBERT: Okay gentlemen thank you for that. A bit lively at the end. Appreciate it. A quick break, back in just a moment on AM Agenda.