ABC AM Radio Interview, 29 August 2019

Radio Interview
Thursday, 29 August 2019

Subject: Climate Change, ICAC, John Setka

By Wayne Swan – President of the Australian Labor Party

HAMISH MACDONALD: As Labor reviews the climate change policies it took to the election the Party's National President Wayne Swan is issuing a chilling warning about the state of the planet the former Federal Treasurer says a climate catastrophe is just around the corner that will completely reshape in his words national and global politics he likens the consequences to the impact of the September 11th terror attacks on the United States. Wayne Swan, welcome back to breakfast.

WAYNE SWAN: Good morning Hamish.

MACDONALD: You've issued this dire warning in a speech I'll read a portion of it “somewhere not far down the track there will be a dreadful climate event that will reshape global and national politics it could well be on our doorstep”. What do you have in mind in terms of what this disaster will look like?

SWAN: Well we already know that global warming has led to more extreme weather events and I think we have now seen, I think the highest temperatures in history in Australia. We’ve had nine of the 10 hottest temperatures since 2005. I mean this morning you've been talking, interestingly, about the Murray-Darling you've been talking about wetlands and so on. Not all of that is climate change but when it's happening in a planet which is warming, and warming in a dangerous way there is no doubt at all that at some stage without collective action the world will face a climate catastrophe and on the way there will be landmark events. What they will be? It is not possible to say but we already live in a country which is slowly and perceptibly being impacted upon by climate change made worse by some very bad environmental management decisions taking place in areas like the Murray-Darling.

MACDONALD: I suppose though the question relates to your reference to the September 11 attacks and the way that reshaped politics globally. How do you think this climate catastrophe taking into account everything you’ve just said?

SWAN: I think you saw this election for example we took quite an ambitious emission reduction profile to the election of 45%, the Government had about 26% they don't take the issue seriously they were really in climate denial they pretend they are doing stuff but they are not. We took it very seriously and will continue to do so, that's not always popular particularly when you put it into a variety of policies. I made the analogy my speech with the Vietnam War I pointed out that in 1965-66 when Arthur Calwell and when the Labor Party opposed the Vietnam War that wasn't popular either but three or four years on as that war was exposed for what it was Labor's policy was on the right side of history. I believe that our climate change policies are on the right side of history as well but sometimes when you take a strong stance it's not always an immediately popular one. The problem with climate is short term vested interests almost predominated over the long term national interest and that's what's been happening a climate debate in this country that's what happened when they destroyed our carbon price. This country would be vastly different now if the carbon price put in place by the Gillard Government was still in operation. Australia would be immensely well-prepared to deal with the climate challenges, we're not and we're living with the consequences. So I was raising the point of a principled stance and a practical policy is something that the Labor Party takes very seriously we take it seriously on climate just as we do it in areas just like Vietnam.

MACDONALD: What is the point though of being on the right side of history if you can't win or keep Government and implement the sorts of policies that you're talking about because as you mentioned …

SWAN: The ones that destroyed the carbon price and now running the Government and they're in charge of a very weak set of policies which are not acting in this area. Part and parcel of that is to persuade the public and not any time …

MACDONALD: but forgive me for interrupting but isn't the point that you failed to persuade the public and The Coalition did persuade the public that's why they are in Government?

SWAN: Yeah that's right, so that’s a don’t throw your principles out the window, was the point of the speech. You stick to your principles you keep arguing your case and you have faith that if your case is right you'll win through in the long term. You have to do it better I'm not saying that that I personally or Labor has always got everything right but I do know that that Carbon Price that we put in place back in 2011 and it did substantially reduce emissions and if it were in operation today many of the political debates our political leaders of our country face wouldn’t exist.

MACDONALD: Yet I know Penny Wong appeared on television after the Pacific Forum and said well Labor too if it were in Government would not have agreed to what the Pacific Island Nations were demanding with regards to coal what then are Labor's principles on this?

SWAN: Its's not the main game, I mean the truth is you have a strong emissions reductions profile when it comes to fossil fuels it does mean we have to make a rapid transition from the use of coal and other fossil fuels …

MACDONALD: Forgive me again for interrupting but if this is about principle, then why is Labor saying well we would have told the Pacific no as well what about the fact that Labor in Queensland is taking a pretty clear position when it comes to fossil fuels.

SWAN: Well, that's a very good question and I'm delighted to actually answer that because coal is not the only issue in town and the truth is Australia produces about four percent of the worlds thermal coal if we're going to reduce emissions in Australia 19 percent of our emissions come out of the transport sector for example, yes doing something about coal, reducing our reliance on coal is really important but that sort of debate diverts attention from the main game and the main game is large reductions in emissions across the board and yes we have to make that transition from coal to renewable energy but it is not the defining element of a program and a policy and a commitment to tackle climate change.

MACDONALD: So would you urge Labor to go to another election whenever the next federal election is with a forty five percent target given that it has clearly already been rejected by the Australian voting public?

SWAN: I would certainly urge Labor to have a very strong emissions reduction profile as we go through the next election.

MACDONALD: That doesn't quite answer the question, forty five percent targets?

SWAN: Well we're going through a policy discussion now and a review of the election.

MACDONALD: Exactly, so what do you think forty five percent or not?

SWAN: What I think , I'm not going to pre-empt the review Hamish, what I think is that a party that wants to be on the right side of history that has a principled approach to climate change which is one of the most important issues facing the future of the planet and our country has to have a very strong policy in the area of climate, in the area of emissions reduction and across all of the areas of emissions, it transport, its agriculture, it's heavy industries, its electricity all of those things they're not defined by a climate policy by the export of one particular fossil fuel.

MACDONALD: Alright some other issues that we need to put to you the Labor's General Secretary in New South Wales Kaila Murnain has told a corruption inquiry that she knew of a $100,000 illegal donation from Chinese billionaire but did nothing. Last night she was suspended is that enough? Just a suspension?

SWAN: Well this whole issue of donations is one that the Labor Party has tackled head-on. A couple of years ago we said we would no longer accept (foreign) donations and we didn't the Liberals didn't act for a couple of years and took (foreign) donations we've said that we will not accept donations without declaration over fourteen hundred dollars. All of these things we want like real-time declaration so we're taking these issues very seriously and the decisions last night by the management committee reflect that seriousness.

MACDONALD: But just a suspension that's the question is that enough?

SWAN: Well Hamish the inquiry will go on and we will act appropriately when it's completed. I think as an interim step that's fine but you know this has got some way to go and the point I wanted to make is however we do take the issue incredibly seriously, have taken it seriously, have acted on it and will continue to act on.

MACDONALD: The question is it's been put by the Prime Minister what do you get for a hundred thousand dollars if you give it to the Labor Party?

SWAN: Well we've got an inquiry going on you don't get anything by donating to the Labor Party and if actions have happened that are contrary to that then we will deal with. The Prime Minister wouldn’t answer the question as to why it took him so long to act in this area.

MACDONALD: well I'm interviewing you so clearly (inaudible) to ask you the questions.Our listeners will remember former Labor Senator Sam Dastyari spoke up in strong defence of China's posturing in the South China Sea. I mean there is a record of what can happen in the Labor party, I mean are people wrong to connect the payment of this sort of money from Chinese billionaires with those sorts of things that are on the public record?

SWAN: Well we acted against Sam Dastyari he's no longer a senator, we've had some evidence which relates to the state secretary in New South Wales she's been suspended. The underlying question is….

MACDONALD: I'm just curious as to why it might be possible in your mind that this person could remain in your party?

SWAN: Well because the inquiry is not yet complete Hamish but we will act as we have acted over the last few years because we take this issue really seriously and the fact that Sam Dastyari is no longer a Senator would indicate that but the inquiry has got some way to go. So we will work our ways through this issue seriously and take action if necessary.

MACDONALD: Another person whose membership of the Labor Party is in question is John Setka he's used some colourful language to describe you he's called you a maggot, a sell-out, a moron and some even more colourful language that's probably not appropriate for 7:45 in the morning did that language shock you?

SWAN: Well, I'm concerned about his language across the board which was one of the reasons why the Labor Party National Executive moved when Anthony Albanese wanted his membership to be withdrawn and you know, we have to let this once again work its way through the courts but I think our intent is very clear.

MACDONALD: Okay we will have to leave it there Wayne Swan thank you.

SWAN: Thank you.


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