Topics: Pelosi visit to Taiwan; International relations; Coalition emission reduction policy;
Laura Jayes: Joining me live now is the Shadow Foreign Minister, Simon Birmingham. Simon Birmingham, thank you for your time. Was this an unnecessary provocation from Nancy Pelosi?
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, LJ. Well, this was a routine congressional delegation visit to Taiwan. These delegation visits happen all of the time, each and every year. There are different delegation visits that occur. Yes, this one included the speaker of the House as part of that delegation visit. But the type of military activities we’re seeing in response to it is a disproportionate reaction to the visit that was undertaken. We shouldn’t be seeing live firing of ballistic missiles, the build-up of military assets, all of which risk military misadventure, all of which risk forms of miscalculation and could risk serious escalation. So that’s why we’re very clear in calling for there to be a step back, a de-escalation by China in terms of its reaction here. And we urge the government to make sure they’re doing likewise in their communications with China.
Laura Jayes: Overreaction, perhaps, but also kind of entirely predictable, wouldn’t you agree?
Simon Birmingham: Laura. It shouldn’t be that way. We should be expecting that. That people react in ways that are proportionate to circumstances. As I said before, a congressional or in our terms, parliamentary delegation visiting is not an unusual thing. Now, there are ways in means that messages can be dispatched. And I note that the United States administration has been very clear in continuing to reinforce to China, as indeed with Australia as well, that nothing has changed in relation to the support for the one-China policy, but also very clear in the stance that there should be no unilateral changes to the status quo in relation to Taiwan, and particularly none that are achieved by force.
Laura Jayes: During the election campaign. Your side of politics is warning how weak Labor would be on China with particular interest, let’s say. And Richard Marles, all those predictions, would you agree, haven’t quite come true. Labor’s actually held up. Would you agree?
Simon Birmingham: Look at this stage, I acknowledged that the new government, in terms of its foreign engagements, have done the right thing in reaching out around the world. They’ve been active in their participation in NATO and the Pacific Islands Forum in Quad meetings, as they should, as we would have been had the election result been different. And I welcome that. I acknowledge that right now Foreign Minister Penny Wong is with the ASEAN foreign ministers in Phnom Penh in Cambodia. These are important discussions to be having in terms of the centrality of ASEAN to our region and particularly the role of ASEAN and their work in relation to the South China Sea, where we have seen real tensions and we encourage her work and ASEAN in their work in terms of ensuring that we do see respect for the rule of law in our region, including the international law of the sea.
Laura Jayes: Okay, let’s talk climate, Simon Birmingham. As I noted at the top of the show, a legislative win for Labor in getting this reduction through the Parliament, legislating it, enshrining it in law 43% in less than eight years. What about the detail? Are you concerned about prices and reliability?
Simon Birmingham: Well, this is indeed where the conversation goes. So I absolutely welcome high ambition when it comes to emission reduction. It’s been clear for some time that Australia is going to exceed the previous targets of 26 to 28% emissions reduction by 2030. And so increasing that ambition is welcome, it’s logical, it’s something that I support. This legislation itself was not necessary. The government had already made the commitment to increase that target and had done so in accordance with the Paris Agreement. But how it is achieved is of course really where the meaty questions lie. That’s where the scrutiny will lie. And the Government’s been making a big deal out of the fact that they have had support for this legislation from business and industry groups. And that’s true. The test will be, though, maintaining that support for the measures the Government puts in place in how it is achieved, because that’s then critical about making sure that we achieve the emissions reduction without seeing negative impacts on jobs, the economy or cost of living.
Laura Jayes: The Coalition lost the election. Don’t need to remind you of that, but you’re sticking-.
Simon Birmingham: Well aware.
Laura Jayes: I thought you might be. You’re sticking with your climate and emission reduction targets for now, but surely in three years you’re going to have to revisit this before the next election, aren’t you?
Simon Birmingham: Well, it will be revisited. And no, I don’t accept that we’re sticking with the previous targets. As I just said, those targets, it’s been clear for some time will be exceeded and having climate targets is logical-
Laura Jayes: What’s your target now. Sorry. Did I miss something? Did this go to party room and shadow cabinet?
Simon Birmingham: Well, it was very clear that Peter Dutton, out of the party room discussions this week said we would be taking higher targets to the next election, but that next elections two and a half years away. And for an Opposition who cannot become the Government for another two and a half years to pick a figure today that could be wrong in two and a half years’ time is an illogical thing. The previous opposition, the Labor Party, took two and a half years in the last term before taking and settling on a target that they would take to the last election. I think we logically would follow a similar type of timeline and of course there will be pressure come the next election, not just on what 2030 targets are, but potentially depending on the timing of the next election, on what 2035 targets look like. Logically, we should take our time, consult with industry to work that up.
Laura Jayes: That’s fair enough. You did have at least two of your members, perhaps more really wanting to cross the floor and vote for this legislation from Labor. What does that tell us about where the party room wants to go? Are there unhappy campers in the party room about the position at the moment?
Simon Birmingham: Laura. Look, to be honest, I thought long and hard about this legislation. Now, ultimately, I accept the arguments for increased ambition on climate change, as we’ve just discussed. The legislation itself, the Government’s been very clear, wasn’t necessary and the Prime Minister himself said that they could live with or live without it. So that shows that it was more about the symbolism than the substance of this legislation. But I absolutely respect the decision of Bridget Archer and the views of others who equally wanted to make sure that there was an element of clarity or certainty or the like. In terms of this legislation, I can understand thinking I have great sympathy for it, and I do want to make sure that as a Liberal Party, we at the next election go with an ambitious emissions reduction target with clear policies in place to support it, and that wherever possible we engage maturely in relation to discussions about emissions reduction and climate change, because it’s for the nation’s best interests that we make sure there is as much stability in terms of those policy settings so that we can grow the types of hydrogen industries and energy transitions that we were talking about as a government just a few months ago, and that we need to see Australia still achieve to have the most secure place in the world in the future.
Laura Jayes: Just finally, before I let you go, I hear there was a report handed to all Liberal members, MPs and Senators this week about the federal election gender analysis, looking at women and the women issue. How bad was it?
Simon Birmingham: I’m actually not sure the report that you’re talking about LJ. Now, I was absent from party room on Tuesday to attend a funeral. So if there was something circulated by a colleague, then I missed it. But on the generics of your question, as I said at the time of the election loss, I think there were some very clear messages for us that we have to learn out of that election loss. They relate in part to climate, as we were just discussing. They also relate to making sure that our candidates and our party room better reflects modern Australia, the balance and equality of modern Australia and in the positions that we take as well, that we’re very clear in terms of the respect for equality and diversity and they’re not picking unnecessary fights in, in sensitive areas. And I think Peter Dutton well and truly understands that and I trust that we will be working hard with the party organisation to find pathways to ensure our candidate selection and attraction does give us the diversity we need for the future.
Laura Jayes: All right, that’s a conversation. A longer one for another time, I’ve got to say, soggy Sydney looks pretty stunning behind you this morning. So welcome. It’s been raining for a while. It’s going to stay that way, but it still looks pretty good. Simon Birmingham, thanks so much.