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Read all the latest news from Brendan O'Connor MP


April 09, 2019

KIERAN GILBERT: We’re going to go now to the Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O’Connor. You’ve heard what Mr Tudge has had to say, particularly in terms of the drive away costs for new vehicles under Labor’s plan. Can you rule out for our viewers this morning that this is the sort of figure that we are looking at in terms of increases in new vehicles under Labor’s approach?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: No, we don’t support that modelling. We don’t support the forecast. In fact what we are looking to do is to ensure that consumers have more choice. Around the world, Kieran, we have electric vehicles that you can purchase for $35,000. That’s not happening here. It is of course cleaner energy that will help deliver that. And indeed it will be providing choice for people if they want to make sure they don’t pay thousands of dollars in petrol bills, they get to choose affordable electric vehicles. We are way behind comparable countries when it comes to the uptake of electric vehicles. We need to do better.

LAURA JAYES: What is the cost of your electric vehicle policy though?
O’CONNOR: Well, in terms of which particular part? I mean what we are looking to do is invest-
JAYES: That’s a good question, Brendan O’Connor.
O’CONNOR: Well, in terms of investing-
JAYES: It’s not free the transition is it?
O’CONNOR: Well, we have to make choices. I think it’s fair to say we do have to make choices. But we have to catch up with the rest of the world. And I think it’s a reasonable target you’ve identified that the target that we’ve set forward for new vehicles is comparable to that the Government has proposed. I don’t see why the Government has turned its back on its own propositions. The Treasurer of course has been on the record now saying that electric vehicles are to the transport sector, what the iPhone is to communications. He was right. I don’t know why he’s changed his view on that.
The fact is though, the Government should be providing support, providing the architecture to ensure we attract consumers. And that’s happening overseas, we don’t see that happening here. But as I say, we have a problem in this country because really only the relatively wealthy can purchase electric vehicles, whereas in the United Kingdom and the United States they are affordable for most people. So therefore, we are providing that choice should you want to go down that path. But we are not forcing people to give up their own vehicle, just providing that choice which is lacking now.
GILBERT: When you look at some of those other nations though where you’ve got a high take up of electric vehicles, it’s a very different geography and size of transport infrastructure you are talking about isn’t it, in terms of Britain or Scandinavia as opposed to our vast continent?
O’CONNOR: Let’s look at the United States. In the US you can purchase vehicles much cheaper that are electric vehicles. Look, every country has its similarities and differences with Australia. Some of those smaller European states are much smaller and therefore there are different demands on vehicles, however the United States provides support and encourages the take up of electric vehicles, I think that’s a good thing. Why wouldn’t we want to be providing opportunities for consumers in this country and frankly, up until this week we believed the Government in some way was at least arguing, at least the Treasurer was arguing, that we should be embracing this technology and that’s why we’re very happy with the plan we put forward. 
JAYES: The problem here, Brendan O’Connor, going into the election campaign is like this electric vehicle policy and your broader carbon tax policy, there is no detail on how much it will cost individual consumers. Both major parties agree there is a cost to reducing emissions but you are not willing to say by how much.
O’CONNOR: Well I think we’ve been pretty-upfront. I think we try to embrace the broader framework of the National Energy Guarantee which was earlier embraced by the former Prime Minister. The Prime Minister that was actually elected to do the job this parliamentary term is no longer there. The current Treasurer of course put forward the National Energy Guarantee and I think for that reason we tried to find common ground to get a bipartisan approach to bringing down carbon emissions and really trying to end the climate change wars that we’ve seen go on now for a decade. I think it’s fair to say that some of these things are difficult to precisely calculate, however we need to have a comprehensive plan and we really were inviting the Government to take up, in part, their own plan that they had discarded. Unfortunately, Scott Morrison, who continues to spend a million dollars a day on advertisements paid by the taxpayer, refuses to embrace a bipartisan approach to energy.
GILBERT: When you look at the Adani issue, it’s obviously a point of division on both sides of politics. As the employment spokesman for Labor, you’d be very much - obviously your brother very senior at the CFMEU - you’d be well aware of the demands within the labour movement for this project to go ahead?
O’CONNOR: Well, there are different perspectives within the Labor Party but there is only one position. The one position has been the same one that has been articulated by Bill Shorten from the beginning. That is, that we need to make sure that any project fulfils the environmental standards required under state and federal law. We want to make sure it’s scientifically supported and indeed there’s a commercial viability to the project. That’s for any project. Of course we want to see growth in jobs. We’ve got initiatives in Queensland to grow employment, built around infrastructure investment, but the Liberal Party are torn asunder. I mean, you’ve now got a senior Senator from the Liberal Party calling for the resignation for the Minister for the Environment - on the eve of an election. You cannot get more divided and dysfunctional than that. And of course, then there’s the Nationals who are even more strident in their attacks on the Liberal Party. It is a government riven with division and dysfunction. And you don’t have to really go much further than this issue to see how disunited they are. Of course, we’re still waiting on Scott Morrison to make a decision. He doesn’t want to call an election. He seems to be unable to make a decision so that the people of Australia can make a choice about what they want to see for the future of this country. And they’re not being given that right because Scott Morrison wants to continue to spend taxpayer’s money on advertising.
JAYES: Well, Brendan O’Connor, fixed terms might fix that, but perhaps that a debate for another time.
O’CONNOR: It’s Labor policy, but we have to get the Australian people to agree with that.
JAYES: Ok, we’ll see. Brendan O’Connor, thanks so much.