Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Tuesday, 2 February 2021
Lisa Millar: Well, the coronavirus situation in Perth will be one of many issues facing our federal politicians when parliament resumes today. Finance Minister and Leader of the Government in the Senate, Simon Birmingham, joins us from Parliament House.
Good morning for this. Started in the new parliamentary year, Senator.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Lisa. Great to be with you again. Thank you.
Lisa Millar: I want to kick off with the language the Prime Minister was using yesterday in regards to climate change, the preference for now to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Why do we still seem to be stepping around the edges of this language? Why not just make it an official firm goal?
Simon Birmingham: Well, look, the Prime Minister's made clear is the goal of the government is absolutely to see net zero achieved by 2050 or earlier.
Lisa Millar: That was just yesterday. But I mean, previously it's not been that firm a language. So why not go further?
Simon Birmingham: It was just yesterday. But what the Prime Minister's also making clear is that we and the world need to focus on how we're actually going to achieve it. Goals and ambitions are one thing, getting them done is a different thing. Now, Australia has quite a proud track record that when it came to the Kyoto Protocol, its first commitment period and its second commitment period, we not only met, but we exceeded the commitments we made in terms of achieving emissions reduction levels, not other countries. Many other countries can't say the same thing and certainly can't say the same thing in terms of achieving it within their own country without having to go and buy international permits from elsewhere. Australia has been able to reduce the level of emissions in our country. We've done it in a range of different ways in terms of efficiency and the change in our energy market. You know, just between last year and this year, sorry 2019 and 2020, and we've seen an 11 per cent increase in the extent of renewable energy available in Australia. The growth and change is significant and what we want to do is keep pursuing that to get to that net zero goal.
Lisa Millar: What are you going to do to or how are you going to deal with the responses that we're already seeing from members of the coalition like Barnaby Joyce, who just don't see this happening and don't agree with that 2050 deadline?
Simon Birmingham: Get on with the job as we're doing, what we are doing through our technology roadmap is investing significant sums of money in the whole range of transformation technologies that are necessary to see not only Australia change our emissions profile, but the world do so. What we need is to make sure that we invest as we are in terms of getting technologies like hydrogen to an affordable level so that it's not just a country like Australia that embraces it, but also you see developing countries where emissions growth is stronger and faster than it is in developed nations. And we want to make sure those countries have a commercial incentive to be able to continue their development, their advancement, but to be able to do so by using cleaner technologies. And that's why technology is the focus of our plans and it's what we're very excited about, the fact that it also sits at the heart of the Biden administration's agenda. And we look forward to working closely with them and other global partners, not just on hydrogen, but also in other areas.
Lisa Millar: Excuse me for interrupting. We don't have a lot of time with you because you are talking to a lot of media organisations this morning. A lot to get through. We've been talking about Collingwood this morning. Eddie McGuire, I'm interested in your view because this goes beyond sport, beyond AFL. Do you think that changes can be made if leadership in an organisation doesn't change at least?
Simon Birmingham: I think the challenge of achieving respect and inclusion for all peoples, including, of course, respect for people of different racial backgrounds, but that extends to, of course, different genders to different ages, to different sexualities right across the board. It's a never ending task for all of us to make sure that we lead. We show an example and set an example that is passed down from generation to generation.
Lisa Millar: Yes, should Eddie McGuire go?
Simon Birmingham: Well, Eddie McGuire is currently the president of the Collingwood Football Club. I welcome the fact they've commissioned this work. It's identified clearly serious issues. They've got to get on and address those issues. Now, it's a matter for the Collingwood footy club as to who leads them through that. But they, like all of us, have to be committed to achieving those outcomes and goals of respecting inclusion so that whoever turns up to play footy there, whoever turns up to work there, whoever turns up as part of the crowd, can expect the same inclusive environment, the same opportunities to participate.
Lisa Millar: In regards to Myanmar, will Australia consider taking action in some way? Sanctions or going to ASEAN has been suggested this morning by former ambassador.
Simon Birmingham: These are deeply concerning circumstances we see in Myanmar and we will talk with our regional partners, as we always would in terms of the nature of the response. It's early days and trying to get clear information out of Myanmar is challenging due to the opaque nature of some of the communications and some of the shutdown and restrictions that are in place there. We very clearly call on the military to respect democratic principles, to uphold the rule of law, to release any people who have been detained. And of course, if they don't do that, then we'll consider next steps in conjunction with our regional partners.
Lisa Millar: Okay. Great news this morning coming out of Brisbane about this deal that's been done with the company for the rapid COVID testing. Hasn't been approved in Australia, though. Would you like to try and see us making use of that technology?
Simon Birmingham: We have a gold standard in terms of our testing with the PCR tests and we'll continue to follow...
Lisa Millar: We don't have these rapid test though.
Simon Birmingham: And the PCR tests have an extraordinarily high degree of reliability. We'll work on the health advice, as we've always done in terms of the technology we deploy in Australia. But full congratulations to this Brisbane based company. It's an exciting example of the fact that Australian technology, Australian know-how, Australian manufacturing is up to the task in terms of helping the world in a range of areas, including in dealing with this pandemic.
Lisa Millar: All right, Senator, thanks for your time.
Simon Birmingham: Thank you, Lisa.