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Manager of Opposition Business Paul Fletcher – Transcript - ABC Afternoon Briefing 05/08/2022

Subjects: Climate change, Labor’s failed $275 energy bill cut promise, Parliamentary procedure, ABC’s 90th birthday

Greg Jennett: In the hubbub of parliament sittings, one of our interviews yesterday was abruptly interrupted by a Division in the House of Reps. Paul Fletcher, the Manager of Opposition Business, had no choice but to race off, so he's back with us now. Welcome back. Where were we? Let's pick up where we left off. I think we were talking about the climate bills and the question I wanted to ask was when will the Coalition land a position on climate emission targets?

Paul Fletcher: Good to be back with you, Greg. Apologies first of all for having to abruptly leave the studio yesterday to go to a division. It was a division that came up just before half past four which is when the adjournment debate begins and like all of us as parliamentarians we have to go and do our duty. But in answer to your question, we have been clear that we will work through a thorough and comprehensive process in relation to the climate change and emissions reduction policy we will take to the next election. Of course, we took to the last election a firm commitment to net zero by 2050, that is a very important commitment and one that I very strongly support. And, of course, what we will also be doing during the term of government in parliament and other ways is holding Labor to account. They legislated a set of targets but putting numbers into a bill is one thing, having a credible plan and executing on that plan is another thing and, of course, as we go through making huge changes to our energy system, what is important is that at the same time we continue to have reliable and affordable energy. So, we as an opposition will hold the government to account and we will also do careful and detailed work of developing our policy and Ted O’Brien, our climate change spokesman will lead that work and we will be presenting a thorough piece of work on it.

Greg Jennett: One of the features of Australian politics has tended to be the rollback promise, the un-legislate move that is promised from opposition to be carried through, axing the carbon tax would be one example. Is this something under active contemplation? Is it something you could foresee your side of politics promising to do?

Paul Fletcher: I am not going to get into, in any way, predicting or foreshadowing what will be the outcome of the detailed policy process. I make the point that the Labor party only announced their targets before the last election and then went through a process on their side of parliament and we will do the same. We will go through a careful and thorough process, but I also make a point that we will be doing our job is opposition to hold Labor to account. There is a huge change needed to transmission networks. And can I say that a big part of my work was dealing with the phenomenal mess that Labor had made of that particular network rollout. They announced it in 2009 and spent $6 billion by 2013, barely 51,000 premises connected to the fixed line network, but it took a Coalition government to get that done for 8.4 million premises. The point I make is that, you know, announcements from Labor are one thing but we have seen time after time they are hopeless at implementation and we will certainly, as an opposition, be holding them to account on the application and delivery of all of that. And when it comes to energy and power, one of their promises was a $275 reduction in power bills and they have gone completely silent on that over the last couple of weeks in Question Time, Peter Dutton, the Leader of the Opposition and other frontbenchers have repeatedly asked the Prime Minister if he stands by that $275 energy bill cut commitment and they have refused, repeatedly refused to repeat that commitment.

Greg Jennett: Noted. Can I take you to something in your current responsibilities? It is keeping the government honest, for want of a better description. Right there on the floor of parliament you objected yesterday to what I think was described as a gesture extended by the Prime Minister towards Sussan Ley. He commented on that himself today. What was the actual allegation that you sought to make surrounding that gesture?

Paul Fletcher: It was a very dismissive handwaving gesture and Sussan Ley, a senior female parliamentarian, our Deputy Leader and a respected figure. And if the Prime Minister is to live up to his rhetoric about a more respectful parliament and particularly being respectful of women, that gesture was not appropriate. I objected at the time as did Sussan and what the Prime Minister should have done in our view is withdrawn. That is the standard practice, and he chose not to do that. But it did show a considerable measure of disrespect and particularly disrespect directed at a woman parliamentarian.

Greg Jennett: I think his counter to that, for the record, was that there was a fair bit of to and fro in the particular session of Question Time, as throughout the week. I know you're going to attend the ABC's 90th birthday celebrations this evening is a former Communications finally minister, Paul Fletcher, quickly and finally because we do not have that much time left today, the Labor party has, of course, promised to move from 3-year to 5-year budgeting for the ABC and you are someone who looked at this over a long period of time. Would that remain in place under a Coalition government?

Paul Fletcher: Well we committed to the 3-year triennial funding and we announced that funding in February this year that gives the ABC and SBS give them certainty and we also secured significant additional funding for our news media bargaining code so funding going to the ABC from Google and Facebook and so in a number of ways there it has been significant support for the ABC from the Morrison government and we showed an innovative approach with our news media bargaining code and I am looking forward to the dinner this evening and I am sure there will be appropriate recognition of the Coalition’s support of the ABC.

Greg Jennett: I am sure it will be a good night whatever is made in public speeches, Paul Fletcher, we will stay in touch, particularly in sitting weeks, thank you for making up the time we lost yesterday.

Paul Fletcher: Good on you Greg, thanks very much.