Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 24 May 2024

FRIDAY, 24 MAY 2024

SUBJECTS: Illegal fishing; Peter Dutton’s nuclear reactor policy

NATALIE BARR: Hundreds of Indonesian fishing vessels have been caught illegally entering Australian waters. Border Force Command says there’s been a surge in boats over the last six months. Australian authorities are working with the Indonesian Navy to return the pirates straight back home.

They’re also destroying the illegal fishing boats, burning them, to send a message that Australia’s marine parks are not to be plundered.

I’m joined now by Education Minister, Jason Clare, and deputy Opposition Leader, Sussan Ley. Morning to both of you.

This is the largest invasion of illegal fishing boats in nearly 20 years. It is a big story. Jason, Australian and Indonesian authorities now working together. Should it have got to this though?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: As you say, it’s a good example of Indonesia and Australia both working together on this.

First, can I recognise the work that our Border Force team are doing on the high seas, this is dangerous work, and illegal fishing’s a serious thing.

Anybody coming into your backyard and stealing things out of your backyard is serious. You’ve got Indonesian fishermen lured out into the high seas, into our backyard to steal things like shark fins or sea cucumbers. The only way to stop it so to burn their boats, send a message that, “If you do this, then you’ll lose the most valuable thing you’ve got, your boat.”  And as you can see from the footage, that’s what we’re doing.

BARR: Yeah, and these sea cucumbers, very valuable particularly in those Asian nations.

So videos of these vessels being burnt, and that footage hopefully getting the message back to the Indonesian villages. Sussan, do you think that will be enough to stop our marine parks being exploited in this way?

SUSSAN LEY: Nat, as a former Environment Minister, I’m very concerned about illegal fishing, and the sea cucumber plays a vital role in the ecosystem of our oceans. But I’m also concerned, Nat, about the illegal boats that are coming as people‑smuggling vessels.

It was good to see the Home Affairs Minister and the Immigration Minister come out of hiding for once, but we have other problems on our borders.

Let’s not forget that in the last six months we’ve had six people‑smuggling boats breach our borders, we’ve had 17 people‑smuggling ventures that have not made it but tried, and Jason quite rightly commends our Border Force; they’re out there, they’re doing an incredible job, it’s vital that under this Government’s watch we don’t have that encouragement for illegal people‑smuggling ventures, because that links, Nat, to the over 140 hardened criminals that were released on our streets, and who can forget the bashing of a Perth grandmother, another alleged assault by one of these individuals who apparently has committed murder.

So, yes, good to see the Home Affairs Minister appear, and great work with illegal fishing, but let’s not forget that keeping our borders safe and keeping our community safe is very important.

BARR: Yeah.

LEY: And I do want someone in the Government to take responsibility.

BARR: Look, let’s move on to something that is making news today. The New South Wales Government is going to push back the closure, of course, of the country’s largest coal‑fired power plant, Eraring, for at least two years. They say they have to do it to keep the lights on.

Jason, is this a sign the States are really dragging their feet on the transition to renewables?

CLARE: No, I don’t think so. I think it’s a commonsense step. We’ve got to make that switch from the old coal‑fired power stations to new renewable energy. What they are doing here is extending it for two years.

You can extend the life of these old coal‑fired power stations for two years. What you can’t do is extend them for 16 years, and that’s what you’d need to do if you were going to go down Peter Dutton’s half‑baked yellow cake idea of nuclear power that would cost a bomb, would take too long to build to replace one of these old coal‑fired power stations, and frankly is about as popular as a poo in a pool.

We’ve had Liberal Party MPs come out again this week saying that they don’t want these things in their backyard.

BARR: Yeah, Sussan, what’s the answer here?  They’re basically underwriting the loss, aren’t they, of about 200 million a year for the two years. We need the baseload power, but the world is moving to renewables too.

LEY: Nat, the answer here is to keep the lights on, and that’s exactly what Jason’s New South Wales Labor colleagues are doing, because let’s not forget that Eraring is part of the 24/7 baseload power that is 90 per cent of the grid, and that is also going to exit the system over the next decade.

So what this demonstrates is that Labor’s renewable fairy story is not going to work unless you have affordable baseload power to give renewables the assistance they need so we can develop them.

I think it’s interesting that Jason’s there workshopping his lines about attacking us on affordable energy solutions for our future while his own New South Wales Labor Government is realising that they have to keep coal for longer.

BARR: Yeah, you know what’s guaranteed, people are sick of the argument. I’m sorry, Jason, we’ve got to go.