Anika Wells MP on ABC Capital Hill
ABC CAPITAL HILL
MONDAY, 25 OCTOBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Net zero deal with the Nationals; Commonwealth Integrity Commission; Christian Porter referral to privileges.
MATTHEW DORAN, HOST: Well let’s bring in our Monday afternoon panel now. Joining me in the studio South Australian Liberal MP James Stevens and Queensland Labor MP Anika Wells. Welcome to both of you.
ANIKA WELLS, MEMBER FOR LILLEY: Good to be with you.
DORAN: James Stevens, I want to start with you. The Nationals are holding a whole heap of influence here, but they don’t actually have any federal representatives outside of Victoria, NSW or Queensland. Do you fear what any deal with them could mean for your state of South Australia?
JAMES STEVENS, MEMBER FOR STURT: No, I don’t. Look I think we’ve gone through a very respectful process within the Coalition. The National Party have had their way of getting to this decision. It’s an excellent outcome yesterday that they are on board with the proposition of net zero by 2050. The cabinet I understand is meeting this evening. That obviously brings together the Liberal Party and the National Party and they’ve agreed to a perspective that is well held in the Liberal Party. I’m happy that we’ve done it in a respectful way. I think we needed to listen to the views of a wide variety of people and National Party members represent some sectors of our economy, geographically, in the regional areas that are very exposed to these commitments. And it was quite right that they properly looked at this, asked questions, sought commitments. They’ve been given them and now we have this support.
DORAN: Has the process being that respectful though? I know Bridget McKenzie had a swipe at a few of your Liberal colleagues in the last couple of weeks. Where she said it’s all well and good for inner city pollies to be advocating for net zero target when it’s the regions that have to bear the brunt. I mean your electorate is an inner suburban electorate. Do you think, you know, there has been that respect? Even if the Libs have been showing the Nats that respect, that respect is coming back?
STEVENS: I do. Look I mean it’s good to have robust debates in this game. And it’s important that people stand up for the people they represent. Like I do for my electorate in Adelaide. Like Bridget does for the state of Victoria. We’ve all come together and brought the perspectives from the people that we represent. And at times those can be forthright discussions. But this is one of the most significant issues in public policy in my adult life time. I think it’s important that people have been frank and honest and that’s what we’ve seen from Bridget and all of our colleagues in getting to this point.
DORAN: Anika Wells, we saw Bridget McKenzie picking up your Senate counterpart Murray Watt in Senate estimates earlier today saying so that we still don’t know what Labor’s 2030 emissions target is going to be. Given we’re on the cusp of Cop26, why not come forward with those details and give the Australian public a clear picture of what your alternative is?
WELLS: Well there are very few luxuries of opposition Matt. But one of them is that you are meant to scrutinise the government’s policies and then try and improve them. We haven’t got the government policies yet so how can we scrutinise them and then try to improve it? I mean what do we know about this deal, at this point? We know that it’s actually a process to move towards a target. And it’s subject to a cab sub that you and I and your viewers will never see. And it’s all based on a gentleman’s agreement between two men who have been opposing this very target for 10 years. At this point it is complete claptrap. We are all being treated with absolute contempt. And your breaking news that Keith Pitt’s off to cabinet out of this demonstrates once and for all that these actors are only in it for themselves. Not for their actual constituents and not with our economic prosperity or our climate future in mind.
DORAN: Is Labor’s reluctance here to show too many of its cards a reflection of what happened at the last election. When it was identified that putting too many policies out there before an election made the party too big a target?
WELLS: Well I think firstly we’ve said we should take a higher target to Glasgow. And we would if we could. But we’re not in government. So the government should take a higher target. But you and I know as people who, I was living the Queensland campaign. That scare campaign is baked in. The Queensland LNP spent the entire campaign talking about Labor’s plan - net zero by 2050 - being a war on coal workers, being Labor’s plan to kill coal jobs. So I think the actual question now is now that we’ve got the deal, whether they’re going to be honest and talk constructively about the transition. I hope so. I’m not convinced.
DORAN: Is that a concern that here though as Anika Wells was saying? We don’t have any of the detail here. You don’t know what’s in the plan. You’re saying that you trust your colleagues to have sorted this out and not, you know, and not got anything that’s going to harm your constituents. But you can’t guarantee that can you?
STEVENS: Well we’ve got the fundamental point. Which is the cabinet will consider and I expect will sign off on making a commitment at the Glasgow conference. That Australia will be transitioning to a net zero carbon emitting economy by 2050. And absolutely there is an enormous of work and detail within that. And we have had a presentation to our party room like the National Party has, on what our plan is. And I look forward to seeing the Labor Party’s plan too.
DORAN: You are of course as I mentioned earlier representing inner city seat. How do people in your electorate view the issue of 2030? I mean the government has ruled out taking more ambitious targets for 2030 to the Cop26 summit. But all of the scientific evidence seems to be suggesting that that is what’s needed if we’re going to be tackling climate change properly in the short term. What are you hearing on the streets of Sturt?
STEVENS: Well firstly we’re getting an update I think later this week on what the projections are for our 2030 emissions. Or in fact for the period between 2020 and 2030 which is what the Paris commitment is. And all signs are that we are going to dramatically exceed, meet and beat, as we say, the targets that are in Paris of 26 to 28 per cent. Some are speculating it’ll be in the 30s. In my electorate people want us to take action, but they also want us to bring the whole country along. They don’t want to see winners and losers through this. They want to see us addressing climate change. I think they’ll welcome the 2050 commitment, but they also want to see a plan not just a target set. And that’s the difference between our approach and what I think we’re going to see from Labor. They will talk targets. They won’t explain how they’re going to achieve them. We will be laying out very clearly how we are going to achieve the net zero by 2050 target.
DORAN: There is so much we can talk about on this topic but I do want to move onto another thing that remains on the parliamentary agenda. And in fact hasn’t even made it onto the parliamentary agenda. And that is the issue of a National Integrity Commission. James Stevens, it’s not a great look that we are now three weeks away from the end of the parliamentary sitting year and we still do not have this renewed proposal from Michaelia Cash, the attorney general ,on the books. It’s not a good look is it?
STEVENS: Well we’re consulting on the model for the Integrity Commission and that’s very important. I mean there’s a lot of jurisdictions that have introduced ICAC- type bodies and are a bit regretful about some of the ways in which they structured them. And I think it’s important that we engage with stakeholders, we take feedback on how to get the model right. Make sure it achieves what it should be doing rather than becoming something that it’s not intended to be. And taking the time to get the model right is much more important than rushing something into the parliament.
DORAN: Anika Wells, do you agree with some of the concerns that have been raised about, for example the New South Wales model? We’ve seen John Barilaro the deputy premier being scrutinised by the New South Wales ICAC today. That the way that that investigative body plays out so publicly, does seem to reverse the sort of presumption of innocence here. It throws people into the spotlight and makes their positions untenable even if they haven’t actually done anything wrong. Is that a concern that you understand?
WELLS: No. I think sunshine is the best disinfectant. And if that was a concern for the government, they’ve had 1000 days to knock up a draft with a model that doesn’t have those concerns in it. We haven’t had that. And when you look at the state we’re in and like you said we’re three weeks from the end of the year. Labor and the crossbenchers have spent all morning in the House putting up Bills that improve integrity of our parliament. There has been Bills about political advertising, misinformation, political donations, the Federal ICAC specifically. Did the government allow us to debate those things in the House? No they did not. Has the government done anything about those things in three terms of government? No they have not. And that’s because Scott Morrison loves secrecy. He has a secret deal with the Nats on net zero. He has a secret inquiry into what happened to Britney Higgins in this building. And he’s allowing secret donations to cabinet ministers. So if you are an Australian who is at this point genuinely worried about the integrity of our Australian parliament and our Australian democracy, there is no choice left at this point but to vote out Christian Porter, vote out Andrew Laming and vote out their great protector Scott Morrison.
DORAN: On Labor’s model, would you under that model, would something like sports rorts, the so-called sports rorts affair. Would that meet the threshold for investigation under a Labor proposal? Would a Christian Porter and blind trust issue meet that threshold?
WELLS: I’ll quote my leader here. Like a rat up a drainpipe. Federal ICAC under a Labor government would be very, very busy. And I think that’s a good thing.
DORAN: You’ve read your talking points. James Stevens, I want to pick up that you mentioned just before.,Your previous role of course you were chief of staff to the South Australian premier Stephen Marshall. I know before the last state election the Premier, now Premier was advocating for greater powers for the South Australian ICAC for greater transparency there. And in the last couple of weeks we’ve seen parliament wind back some of its scope. Is this a case of they’re good ideas until you actually have to put them into practise? And is there a fear there about what they might uncover?
STEVENS: So the South Australian model is different to the Federal one. And it gets complicated because it’s both an anti-corruption body but also a maladministration ombudsman. And one of the issues has been, there’s a big difference between maladministration and corruption. And that’s why, like with this Federal body we want to see it focusing on serious systemic corruption. Do what its main purpose should be. Which is to look into, investigate and uncover corruption. I hope it doesn’t find any frankly. But we want to have something that’s very targeted and focused on that. And one of the issues with the ICAC in South Australia is that in many ways it hasn’t been focused on on that main goal. And that’s why those changes have been made.
DORAN: Very briefly because we are almost out of time. Do you think the Christian Porter situation passes the pub test? That he should be allowed to sit on the back bench without any further scrutiny when he’s got anonymous funds pouring into his bank account?
STEVENS: Well the principle of that matter has in fact been referred to the privileges committee of the parliament. And we will all be interested to see what that committee’s view is on that general topic. Christian Porter is the duly elected member for Pearce. I’m proud to have him as a colleague. I hope to have him as one into the future. And he deserves to be in the parliament, sitting there representing the people of Pearce like any of us.
DORAN: On the issue of the privileges committee we’ve got one of its members sitting at the desk with us. Fancy that.
WELLS: Oh, I shouldn’t wink after senate estimates.
DORAN: You shouldn’t wink. And we will bring our viewers that in just a moment. But just like Fight Club you don’t talk about the privileges committee.
WELLS: That’s the number one rule.
DORAN: But is there any, any update you can provide us as to where deliberations are at on this matter?
WELLS: Well like James said, a number of members of parliament referred that matter with various differing questions attached to it to privileges. And privileges meets again this week to consider it.
DORAN: Anika Wells, James Stevens, as ever thank you for joining us.
WELLS: Such a pleasure.