Topics: Labor deal with Greens on safeguard mechanism; Israel domestic politics;

07:45AM AEDT
Tuesday, 28 March 2023


Peter Stefanovic:  Joining us is the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham. Minister, Minister- Shadow Minister. Simon It’s old habits, old habits. They die hard. Well, let’s start locally. Simon, safeguard mechanism supported by the BCA and also the industry groups. Will it really stifle investment?


Simon Birmingham: We’re going to have to look very closely at this in terms of the impact over now the months or years to come, assuming this does pass through the parliament and to understand fully the impact on energy markets in particular, what is going to occur if, as the Greens claim it is going to stifle gas industry investment in particular, because that has flow on consequences and impacts for Australian businesses, Australian households in terms of the availability of gas and therefore the price and reliability of gas for production purposes in industry as well as what it means for electricity markets too. So, there are serious issues there. I think there are still serious issues for particular business sectors such as the cement industry sector, to really understand whether there is any compromise from the government, any consideration been-


Peter Stefanovic: They’ve been carved out, though, haven’t they?


Simon Birmingham:  Well, I want to make sure that and understand fully the impacts there. So obviously, the government, I suspect, will seek to rush this through from here. I hope, though, that given this deal has been stitched up behind closed doors between Labor and the Greens, that they do allow proper process for full exploration of the consequences of what they’re doing.


Peter Stefanovic: Have you got a tin ear though, a claim made by Anthony Albanese when it comes to listening or perhaps not listening to what electorates are saying given recent state and federal elections?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I think there’s always a case for political parties to make sure they’re listening. And it’s going to be critical for us as we work over the next two years towards the next federal election, in 18 months or two years’ time to ensure that we have a compelling set of policies that have listened to the election, including effective policies to achieve Australia’s emission reduction targets. That will be a key point of credibility that we have to outline and demonstrate to the electorate, along with, of course demonstrating that we also have the types of policies to actually deal with the cost-of-living pressures that Australians are facing at present, which clearly the Labor Party have no plans or policies to effectively do.


Peter Stefanovic: But when it comes to the safeguard mechanism though, I mean, given you had earmarked gas as key to economic recovery while you were in power, have you missed an opportunity to at least do your best to protect the gas industry by passing the legislation unamended?


Simon Birmingham: Well, the gas industry is important for Australia’s future and as I just outlined before, there’s going to have to be a very close understanding of the type of impacts here. I do note the different industry groups with their different reactions today and they need to be reconciled somehow. It seems inconceivable that the gas industry can see this as potentially causing problems for the availability and pricing of gas. And yet the AI Group, for example, seems to see there’s an acceptability in the compromise that’s been struck.


Peter Stefanovic: We’re just turning our attention to Israel at the moment, Simon. Pictures are still coming in. These protests have been going on for days, weeks, even months now since January, since this proposal was put forward, basically watered down the power of the courts to give the parliament more power. What’s your- what are your observations from afar here?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I’d make a few observations. Firstly, that that it’s not for Australia to interfere or run commentary on the domestic political affairs of another nation. But of course, we would wish for any country to act in ways that ensure the integrity of their judiciary, the effective operation of their government, and to operate to underpin the peace of their country as well. Now, Israel is a standout democratic, successful, peaceful nation within the Middle East. It is a close partner and friend of Australia’s and so we would obviously wish for them to find a pathway through current challenges that works according to those types of principles that that uphold its standing and ability to engage in the region.


Peter Stefanovic: There appears to be a fine line to walk here, though, because critics have said, well, the courts have currently got too much power, which is what this all about. But then if it’s successful, then the government’s going to have too much power and undermine the courts, which would be in favour of Netanyahu, who’s had his own problems in the past before. So, are you concerned about any one body here having too much power?


Simon Birmingham: Well, it is important to recognise and I say again, this is a domestic political debate within Israel, but that there are different proposals for reform across different parts of government. So, I understand that the Israeli President has outlined a model, as has Prime Minister Netanyahu. So, these will no doubt be reconciled through their political processes and their democratically elected government and legislature. And that’s the right thing to occur. But it does show that there is perhaps a breadth of concern or debate about the operation of the judiciary, not just aligned with one part of government, but clearly coming from different arms of government, proposing alternate reform proposals and it’s for them to work through those proposals.


Peter Stefanovic: Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time. We’ll talk to you soon.