Interview with Raf Epstein, ABC Radio National

Raf Epstein
Net zero carbon emissions

Raf Epstein: He joins us from Canberra, he is the Assistant Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction. He's also the Liberal MP for the Melbourne seat of Goldstein. Tim Wilson, good afternoon.

Tim Wilson: Good afternoon Raf.

Raf Epstein: No new legislation that you need to sign or pass. No new targets, no new policies. So what has changed?

Tim Wilson: Well, we actually have a comprehensive economy wide plan to actually meet our targets, and that's been the critical difference. There's a lot of discussion about intent, different political parties talking about what they want to achieve. We've outlined a clear, comprehensive economy wide solution and plan about how we seek to deliver it. And that includes providing support and assistance to renewables, backing Australian industry and of course, making sure that we cut greenhouse gas emissions along with our targets that have been set and now, of course, comprehensively by 2050.

Raf Epstein: And you mentioned a comprehensive plan. How can you have a comprehensive plan to do something if you don't have any new policies?

Tim Wilson: Because, well, that's that's false politely. It's firstly, it includes...

Raf Epstein: Can I pick up you up on that Tim Wilson? I'm sure you'll answer. But the Prime Minister's slide said the plan, his plan is based on our existing policies. So that's correct.

Tim Wilson: It's absolutely based on our existing policies and what we've added in is focus on new types of technologies, particularly ultra low PV cells and solar power and what that potential that can do. The use of an increasing focus on building materials and the role they can play, not just to store carbon to be part of a solution to reducing energy consumption. There's so much in this 130 page comprehensive economy wide plan, and there'll be more to come because we're taking the challenge of climate change very seriously. But we're also taking the challenge of the economic opportunity and the backing of new jobs for a future cleaner, greener Australia as well.

Raf Epstein: Just seems like a lot of effort for a very vague aspiration. You don't even know the technology you're going to be relying on to reach your aim.

Tim Wilson: Well, I would disagree with that Raf. If you actually go through the plan, we look at each sector, what different technology are at work, what is being backed internationally as well as domestically that the modelling we've based things on it in line with the International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the technologies that they see as aspirational.

Raf Epstein: Do you mind if I just break, I don't mind you giving us a list, because I'm asking you for detail, but if I can break that down a bit and I appreciate you saying, I think what you're saying is you're using the modelling that respected international groups use. I suppose what I was asking is that some of the technologies unproven. I think about a third of what you say you will do. You will do with technology that is not proven. That seems vague.

Tim Wilson: Well, there are technologies that are going to reach maturation, which aren't there yet, and we openly acknowledge that and that's the challenge not just for us, but every country on Earth. But you just need to look at where and I said this on the program the other day, where electric vehicles were only five years ago, they were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars they were very unaffordable and in...

Raf Epstein: You rubbished labor for relying on that future technology at the last election. Now you're now, it's okay for you to rely on future technology. That's unproven.

Tim Wilson: No, that's that's firstly not true. And secondly, I'll finish my point, which is now electric vehicles are much more accessible and much more affordable. And we know the rate of technology not just in terms of its competitiveness, but its adoption is increasing. That's why we have one in four Australian homes that now have solar PV on their roofs, and we can see with our focus on ultra low cost solar that that's only going to be amplified. The difference between us and LaborĀ 

Raf Epstein: I'm just unclear with that. I just would love to ultra low cost is that like latest generation solar panels or something?

Tim Wilson: Well, they continue to climb the cost of solar in comparison to the return on investment. So yes, it's the continued rollout of newer types of solar technology. UNSW they've just won an international award for increasing the productivity of solar cells by 25 per cent by changing the metals that are used in it. So there's a real opportunity to do exciting things. But the difference between our plan and Labor's plan is theirs is relied on taxes and burdens and punishment, and ours is focused on incentives and backing technology that's going to work.

Raf Epstein: What's it like being in government and held hostage to the whims of a just a few Nationals MPs?

Tim Wilson: Well, I wouldn't know that because we've always taken the view that actually everyone should be part of the conversation. And of course, the National Party represents rural and regional communities, their concerns and the challenges they face. And I want that conversation to be had, whether it's at the kitchen table, in corporate boardrooms or, of course, around the cabinet table as well.

Raf Epstein: I asked that question, Tim Wilson, because if you polled the parliament, most people in your party and in the Labor Party, in fact, everyone the Labor Party want a much tougher 2030 target. I think most Liberal MPs want a much tougher 2030 target. Most businesses in Australia want a much tougher 2030 target. This Business Council, the Australian industry group. Practically everyone, most of our trading partners in the free world like Japan, America, Britain, but you're not doing that because of a few national MPs. Does that make sense to you?

Tim Wilson: Well, it doesn't, because the start of the Labor Party doesn't have a 2030 target, so the basis of your assumption is false. And in fact

Raf Epstein: It's not. They just want to go further than you.

Tim Wilson: Well, then they can articulate it because at this point, they're criticizing our 2030 target, our 2050 target and of course, our plan to reach the 2030 and 2050 target. And they've not offered nothing of the sort

Raf Epstein: So leave the Labor Party out of it, most of the businesses. Most of our trading partners want you to go harder on 2030. I think most of the people in your party want to go harder on 2030.

Tim Wilson: Well, what we've said is we're going to do things with democratic license. We're going to take things to the Australian people and get it endorsed, which is what we did at the last election. We got our existing target at 26 to 28 per cent endorsed by the Australian people. But even more critically than that, Raf, what we're now talking about is how far we can scale up our ambition because we haven't just, we're not on track to meet that target, but to beat it. As part of the plan today, we've upward revised the trajectory, looking increasingly like we'll be able to get up to 35 per cent emissions reduction by 2030, which is what happens when you back technology is the solution and how we're going to achieve our targets rather than using taxation.

Raf Epstein: If I can just explain that. Currently, the goal is to reach 28 per cent emissions cut, the projections from the government today have us reaching somewhere from 30 to 35 per cent. Tim Wilson is with he is the Assistant Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions. We'll get to your calls. What do you make of this 1300 222 774? Tim Wilson, really worth, I think, coming to the science of this you don't have even if you hit 35 per cent, that's not enough for the science and for the world. If the rest of the world had a 2030 target of a 35 per cent emissions cut, that's not enough to stop significant damage from climate change. So why should Australians be okay with something that isn't enough for the rest of the world? If everyone did what we are doing, it would not be enough.

Tim Wilson: Well, the challenge has always been how we reduce global emissions, and that's what one of the key planks of our plan is doing today. In the past, a lot of discussion has been how we impose taxes on other countries as well as our own to achieve emissions reduction. We know internationally the hard evidence shows if you want to achieve emissions reduction, particularly for some of the world's poorest countries, you need it to be based on a technological approach which drives change, is competitive and viable for countries. And, of course, enables them to do, to cut their emissions in spite of the economic challenges that they face. And that's the basis in which we're looking at how we want to be part of the solution, not just domestically but globally.

Raf Epstein: Well, look, that's a mention of taxes and technology, and I know that's part of the conversation, but I'm not, not sure it's an answer. The world is, the science is telling us if every country aimed for what you're saying, we're going to do, which is 35 per cent cut by 2030. If the world aimed for that, you'd have uncontrollable, irreversible, very damaging climate change. So why is why is that okay for Australia?

Tim Wilson: Well, that's why we're trying to be part of the solution because we have a lot of countries out there who make big promises about their emissions cuts, but then they don't actually match them and deliver them. We take a different approach, which is it isn't policies isn't just measured on intent, it's actually measured on outcomes. And what we've demonstrated consistently is that we can set targets, we can meet them, we can beat them. And now we're having a live conversation about upgrading them because we've exceeded expectations. You know, the United States has had bigger targets, has bigger targets than us now, but they're not even close to meeting the one that they had previously. In fact, a lot of legislation in the United States Congress is being held up despite the talk of intent. We're focusing on the outcomes so that we can be part of the solution because if Australia cuts its emissions in isolation, it doesn't solve the problem. We need the world to work with us and increasingly as a has a hungry appetite for a technology based solution, because other countries can see how they can work domestically in taking their communities with them and being part of the solution while being part of the Queen of Future.

Raf Epstein: How are you going to feel campaigning against people in your own party? When are you candidates in Queensland and one of your senators, Matt Canavan, have both said they will campaign against what you have announced. How's that going to work in an election?

Tim Wilson: Politely, neither of those individuals are in my party. They're in the National Party.

Raf Epstein: Sorry they're in your Government Tim Wilson.

Tim Wilson: Yeah. But they're of course, entitled to their view. I mean, we're taking a very clear position and we're going to stand by it every step of the way because we actually want to be part of building the economy of the future for Australia, creating the jobs of the future for Australia and making sure that we don't leave people left behind. I want the next generation of Australians to grow up in a cleaner and richer future.

Raf Epstein: I just want to be handled as a Government campaign, having people from inside the Government saying you are wrong. Barnaby Joyce said this target would mean we'd have to shut coal mines. That's what he said, like at the start of last year. How do you how do you deal with that when you're campaigning in an election, if people inside the Government think it's a terrible idea?

Tim Wilson: Well, we get on with the job. That's what we do Raf. I mean, that's why we've developed a comprehensive plan. And my hope is that when they go through the plan, I mean, it's 130 pages looking at the whole of the economy, they'll see the benefit and the opportunity and how, frankly, rural and regional Australia are at the heart and center of how this plan wins, how we're going to create jobs in those communities and how they want to be part of that solution. Because, you know, this is one of the challenge people are talking about. Are you going to carve out this sector or that sector? And we've said, no, we don't want to carve any sector out, including agriculture, including rural and regional communities, from the opportunities that are presented from this target, this plan and building jobs for Australia's future.

Raf Epstein: I shouldn't ask a politician this, but 10 seconds or less. What worries you about climate change?

Tim Wilson: I am concerned about the long term environmental consequences, of course, for the impact on people. And I'm also concerned about the economic consequences that if we don't take action, I don't want to be left behind. The world's economy is moving towards a cleaner future and we should be aiming to. Not just be part of that solution, but frankly, cash in on it because I want our kids to have a better future too.

Raf Epstein: Appreciate your time, thank you.

Tim Wilson: Thanks.

Raf Epstein: Tim Wilson he's the MP in the seat of Goldstein along the South East of Melbourne. He now is part of Scott Morrison's ministerial team. He's the Assistant Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions, so he is the assistant to Angus Taylor.