Topics: Labor’s climate bill; Coalition emission reduction target; nuclear energy; Myanmar representative office


07:56AM AEST


Journalist: Basically, the climate bill is looking like it’s going to obviously pass the house and it’s going to go into the Senate. It looks like it’s going to pass. Is that a good thing on some level? Obviously, you’ve after the election talking about maybe the need for the coalition to look at some of its own ambitions. Are you glad that that particular piece of legislation will pass?


Simon Birmingham: Well, look, I welcome a higher level of ambition on climate change, and I’m very pleased that Peter Dutton has been clear this week that we will be taking to the next election policies that support higher ambition on emissions reduction and targets for higher ambition on emissions reduction. That is very important. The legislation itself, well, the prime minister himself is basically described it as a take it or leave it option, that, as he has said, the government could have lived with it or lived without it. As the minister has said, it’s not necessary to meet the targets. Personally, had the legislation been necessary to commit to higher levels of targets, then I would have wanted to support it in a heartbeat and expected that we should back in behind it. But it wasn’t necessary. The Government’s clear on that. They’ve already made a commitment. The legislation is closer to window dressing in that sense.


Journalist: Is the Coalition fuelling the climate laws by refusing to back this bill?


Simon Birmingham: Look, I’m not interested in any wars on those sorts of topics. I want to make sure that we’re constructive in our policy.


Journalist: Senator, Bridget Archer has said she might cross the floor in the House. Do you think any of your colleagues in the Senate might do same thing?


Simon Birmingham: Look, I’ll leave that to individuals. I have nothing but respect for Bridget and can understand the decision she’s come to.


Journalist: Do you think that a 43% target is the appropriate number?


Simon Birmingham: Well, that’s the target the government’s committed to. They’ve also said that they will ease cost of living pressures, that they will grow jobs. And so they have to now deliver on the policies that meet all of those promises that they have made. We will be able to formulate our targets that we take to the 2025 election, closer to the 2025 election.


Journalist: Do you think that should be higher or lower than the 43%?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I think we should be striving for as high a level of emissions reduction as Australia can achieve without jeopardising the jobs of Australians or the living standards of Australians.


Journalist: Do you see the Coalition setting its target? Obviously, you know, after the election loss there’s a lot of reflection going on, but there doesn’t seem any urgency in setting its own target. Are you going to be talking to your colleagues about maybe making that happen sooner rather than later?


Simon Birmingham: Look, the reverse in that sense. I think that now it will be important to see how Australia tracks against the emissions reduction targets that have been set and that when it comes to an alternate government presenting itself at an election in three years time, well obviously we will want to have the latest information available to us when we set the targets for 2030 or 2035 to present ourselves to the Australian people. So it makes sense for us to have all of that information available. Just as indeed the Labor Party and Opposition took the two and a half years and set their targets much closer to the election rather than earlier in the term.


Journalist: Senator do you think nuclear power is worth considering, is it cost effective?


Simon Birmingham: Well, the issue for consideration around nuclear power is partly cost, but also the contribution it can provide for stability in the energy market and for helping to achieve emissions reductions. The reality is that across Europe, the Americas, other countries that have got significant commitments to achieve net zero, they also have significant emissions free nuclear industries to help them get there. Now I want to see renewables do as much of the lifting as they possibly can. But having an open mind to nuclear power makes sense if we are to truly seek to achieve net zero with absolute confidence in terms of the energy reliability too.


Journalist: Myanmar [indistinct] Government opened its representative office in Canberra last night. Do you think Australia’s Government should be recognising this government in exile?


Simon Birmingham: Well, look, I know that the Foreign Minister is attending the ASEAN foreign ministers meetings over these couple of days. These are very important deliberations following the terrible executions that were undertaken by the regime in Myanmar. I wish Minister Wong well in working with her ASEAN counterparts to make sure maximum pressure is applied to the Myanmar regime in terms of ceasing such executions and working through the many sensitive issues we have, including, of course, the detention of Professor Turnell.


Journalist: The Territory Rights Bill went through the House yesterday down to the Senate now. A number of your House colleagues, I think it was almost split 50-50 between the coalition, yes and no. Do you think is this something that you’d get behind? And do you think your Senate colleagues will do the same thing?


Simon Birmingham: Look, the last time a very similar bill came before the Senate, I voted for it. And I’ve been on the public record that I will be voting for this bill, too. I hope that it passes the Senate. What’s changed in the years since it was last considered by the Senate is that every single Australian state has now put in place voluntary assisted dying laws. Given that fact, it now certainly makes sense to provide the territories with the same rights, the same opportunities to replicate some of the models from other states. Thanks, guys.