Interview with Tom Connell – AM Agenda – Tuesday, 03 October 2017


SUBJECTS: Adani, gas prices, Turnbull’s fight with the States

TOM CONNELL: Joining me now is the Shadow Resources Minister, Jason Clare. Jason Clare thanks for your time today. Some more concerns aired last night about the Adani Carmichael Coal Project, including environmental breaches and possible tax avoidance as well. Does Labor still emphatically back this project?

JASON CLARE: Tom, I didn’t see the program last night. One of the perils of being a new parent is I spent most of last night trying to get little Jack back to sleep. But I’ll watch it today. The general point I’d make is that we expect all companies that operate in Australia to comply with Australian law. Australian tax law, Australian company law and Australian environmental law. And if this project is to go ahead what we’ve said consistently is the project needs to stand on its own two feet. That means that the company responsible needs to meet all of the tax, company and environmental standards expected to go ahead in Australia and shouldn’t rely on tax payer funding to build the mine and to operate it. So for example one of the points of difference with the Government is we’ve said that the rail line that would be needed between the mine and between the port should be funded by the company that builds and operates the mine. It shouldn’t be funded by the Australian taxpayer.

CONNELL: And fair enough. I mean the tax minimisation we’re talking about though is essentially legal minimisation using shell companies, so that’s one element of it. You’ve got the jobs with the Land Court saying only about 1,500 will be created rather than 10,000. I guess the point is what’s Labor going to do when they come into power at a Federal level? Are you looking to look into this any further? Are you happy with the way the Federal Government’s acted on the approvals process?

CLARE: There are a number of inquiries going on at the moment looking at tax minimisation and multinational corporation tax activity, by the Australian Senate. There’s also an inquiry going on at the moment into the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. This is a $5 billion fund that the Government want to use in part to fund the rail line. It was announced two years ago and not a cent has been spent on infrastructure in Northern Australia yet. It’s been a total shemozzle. The only money that’s been spent has been on director’s fees so far. And that inquiry is looking at conflicts of interest, or potential conflicts of interest of members of that board. But it’s also looking at potential projects that might be funded.

If the mine does go ahead it does mean jobs for Northern Australia. If the Galilee Basin is developed it means a lot of jobs for that area. But let me return to where I started, which is it’s important that all companies [operating in Australia], whether they’re overseas based companies or Australian based companies, that they comply with Australian law.

CONNELL: In terms of what they’re doing though they’re complying, the Queensland Government for example is going to give them unlimited water within this area. The question I’m wanting to know is, I know you talk about it making sure it stacks up on its own two feet in terms of not getting any Government concessions, but other than that Labor still is giving the thumbs up to this project all those other qualifiers in there.

CLARE: As long as it meets the standards set by Australian law, by Federal Government as well as by the State Government as well.

CONNELL: Fair enough. Another meeting today with gas chiefs today and the PM. This is the short term element, but I want to look a bit more long term. Do you agree we need some more gas projects online the next few years? That exploration needs to ramp up again?

CLARE: Well we need more gas, and if this provides more gas in the short term, then that’s a good thing. The real test now for Malcolm Turnbull is will this cut the cost of gas in half. Six months ago, he said that by doing this, he would cut the cost of gas in half. That hasn’t happened to date. Gas prices are still very high. Still companies are being offered contracts of $15, $16, $17, $18 a gigajoule and all of the analyst reports over the last few days indicate that prices are expected to remain very high. Now, if that happens, then Malcolm Turnbull’s failed. His promise to the Australian people to cut gas prices in half won’t have happened.

We need more gas into the market, whether that’s through policies like this, or whether that’s through opening up new reserves. And in the longer term, Tom what we need is a Clean Energy Target. We need the right investment settings to encourage businesses to invest in energy generation and for the last ten years, the major political parties have been fighting about this. The Liberal Party’s been involved in a civil war between the Abbott forces and the Turnbull forces for the last ten years. If you look at the front page of The Australian today Tom –

CONNELL: Sorry just to jump in, I’d just like to jump in because we’re nearly out of time.

CLARE: Tom I’ve just got to make the point that we have board directors that are calling for this as well. So that’s the key, it’s a challenge for the Australian Parliament to get this done this year.

CONNELL: I want to just ask one more on gas though, because this is one particular element – it’s always been seen as a transitional fuel when we go away from coal. Victoria, they’ve got a ban on CSG but also a ban on conventional gas exploration. Do they have to lift than ban on conventional gas exploration?

CLARE: At a national level our approach is that we support the responsible development of our gas reserves. You see that being done in Queensland. All of the scientific evidence indicates that it can be done safely with tight restrictions, tight regulations on the way in which it’s done. So I’d like to see more of that done.

CONNELL: But can you name a project or two that should go ahead, that isn’t for example.

CLARE: I wouldn’t identify an individual case. But what I would say is that if you want to see more of these gas reserves developed the way to do it is to work cooperatively with the States. Bring them together and talk to them, rather than berate them and attack them from the sidelines.

Gladys Berejiklian – the Liberal Premier of NSW – said it requires a national approach and I think she’s right. That’s the approach the Prime Minister should be taking, trying to bring people together here and work out a solution rather than just picking Premiers off one by one and attacking them. That’s old style politics, it’s what you do when you’re in trouble. The Prime Minister should show some leadership here rather than the sort of weak approach of just attacking individual Premiers.

CONNELL: It could be an interesting problem to inherit if you do win power, we’ll see what happens. But Jason Clare thanks for your time today on Sky News.

CLARE: Thanks Tom.