Transcript – ABC Radio Drive with Steve Austin - 2 October 2021

Subjects: COP26, housing market
STEVE AUSTIN: World leaders have wrapped up the first day of the Glasgow summit debating what action is needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. As you've just heard me play, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, encouraged world leaders to achieve results.
Australia's Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, addressed the conference overnight, formally committing Australia to net zero emissions by 2050. He also stated Aus Australia would exceed our 2030 commitments, although his figures have been highly contested on multiple fronts. Yesterday, I spoke with Labor's Jim Chalmers. Today, the LNP Senator for Queensland, Amanda Stoker, who is Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations, and Assistant Minister for Women. Senator Stoker, what was the most significant part announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison at COP26 in his speech last night?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, the important takeaway- I should say hello, Steve. Hi.
AMANDA STOKER: The most important thing I took away from it is that the way Australia is addressing climate change that distinguishes itself from much of the way the rest of the developed world is doing it is that it's not about big talking and big promises; it's about results on the ground. Our record in recent years has been really strong on this front. No developed nation has reduced emissions faster than we have
since 2005. We've beat our 2020 targets and we're on the on track to do the same for 2030. The fact that we are going to be results driven, rather than about big promises on the Never Never, I think, is what distinguishes us from many of those who have attended and many of the people, even domestically, who enter into this space. The Coalition doesn't make promises that it doesn't keep, and when we make a commitment, we do it knowing that we can achieve it. And this approach, based on technology and not taxes, is one we know we can achieve.
STEVE AUSTIN: No one's asking for commitments to be made on the Never Never. What's being asked for, pretty broadly, is serious, genuine, urgent action to reduce carbon emissions. And there's a great deal of questions about Australia's use of these statistics in actually achieving that. You would have heard that the Prime Minister's figures have been highly contested on multiple fronts, basically implying that- or in stating overtly that he's fudging the data, fudging the figures.
AMANDA STOKER: Look, I don't think he does, but I also think it's important to know that given the political heat associated with this issue, there's always going to be a lot of people who have a vested interest in making that claim. I'm really comfortable with the record Australia has, particularly in that post 2005 period. We have reduced emissions faster than any other major commodity exporting nation in the world, faster than Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the United States, many of which talk a big game on the international scene and make big promises. But we're actually delivering even in circumstances where, quite frankly, the Coalition doesn't get much credit for it-
STEVE AUSTIN: Yet we're still opening coal mines. Yeah, but we're still opening coal mines. That's the big puzzle for many. Okay, we, technology will help some things, but we're still opening coal mines.
AMANDA STOKER: The thing about net zero means that we aren't going to go and shut down coal or gas production or exports. We're not going to make energy unaffordable for Australians, and we're not going to cost jobs in farming, mining, or gas. Net zero means we can provide opportunities for those in agriculture to continue to reach international markets, particularly given this is important to the international community. But we can do it without doing so at the price of the Central Queensland mine workers' job. There's room in net zero for all of those different parts of our community to play a role. And even once we balance out that which is offset through carbon capture and storage and soil carbon and other ways that technology is driving progress here, there's still room for traditional industries and traditional energy sources to play a role, albeit, you know, over time that will reduce. But allowing the people who depend on those industries to have a future is a
really important part of making sure we do this in a way that works for Australians, in a way that can survive, I guess, the shifting sands of political change.
STEVE AUSTIN: I realise it's not your portfolio area, but I keep hearing about the achievements of carbon capture and storage, and I do not know of one successful project. And when I interviewed Angus Taylor last week, he named the Gorgon project in Western Australia and promised to provide the list of the 20 projects that apparently are viable and I've still not received that list, so I'll- but I don't know of any single carbon capture project that's working anywhere in Australia at this stage at all. Mr Morrison-
AMANDA STOKER: I'll get him to follow up that list for you.
STEVE AUSTIN: I would really like it, I'm still waiting. Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, in the speech, compared the climate crisis to the coronavirus pandemic, saying it won't be governments that find solutions. And he went on to talk about scientists and technology. But isn't the Prime Minister missing what his role is? As Prime Minister, he's elected to lead on behalf of Australians, not to abrogate or outsource his role. Australians expect the government to find solutions by setting targets and setting tax policy and a range of policies that encourage private industry to achieve those solutions.
AMANDA STOKER: Look, I think we agree in the principle that says we need to encourage private industry to continually do things better. But the approach for which you just advocated would necessitate a kind of central control, which I actually think is potentially very harmful to the ability of Australians to innovate and to run their businesses in the way that they want to. The advantage of the method that has been set out by Minister Taylor and the Prime Minister is that it's about using the market to expand the number of choices available to consumers, domestically and with our trading partners. And it's about allowing the uptake of technological change in that market to drive down the cost of innovation and to drive down the cost of energy so that it remains within the reach, even of Australians who might be struggling to pay the bills. The problem-
STEVE AUSTIN: - Solar is doing that- solar is doing that now, but what people are looking for is incentive by government, say, in the area of electric vehicles to encourage that transition. Solar is doing that, that's the technological change.
AMANDA STOKER: Look. Solar is an example of that. I'm happy to see that development occur, noting though that it's important we ensure there's enough base-load in the system to make sure it's sufficiently reliable. But the difference between mandating this, for instance, with a legislated target, is that it empowers an enormous bureaucracy to go around monitoring everybody's move in every business decision they make and every policy that comes out in a way that becomes a drag on
innovation, in a way that becomes a cost centre for everybody no matter where they participate in the system. And ultimately that drives up the cost of everything in a way akin to a tax for the people who need to ultimately pay the bill. And what's good about the Coalition's policy is that it keeps it market driven so that it stays affordable for the people who need it most. And that's the way that we make sure we don't sell out anybody's job or anybody's cost of living.
STEVE AUSTIN: The people who will pay the bill is my daughter and her children. In other words, aren't we just kicking the can down the road and saying we- it's too politically hard to act now, let's hope that something comes up down the track?
AMANDA STOKER: Well, as somebody with a couple of daughters herself, I don't want to see the can kicked down the road. This is delivering net zero by 2050. So, you've got a clear commitment, you've got a clear timeline, and you've got a roadmap that's going to get us there in a way that avoids many of the potential pitfalls of a legislative target, for instance. There's a bunch of different ways you can skin a cat here, but the way that the Coalition has decided to approach this is a way that gets the balance right between the cost of living and traditional jobs having a place in this state for the long term, and I think they should. And making sure that we are doing the right thing by our daughters to make sure that they have the right outcome on climate too. It's a middle of the road, sensible, pragmatic approach to the problem, rather than a rush to the extremes. And what concerns me about this debate is that we hear most from the people at both ends of the extremes.
STEVE AUSTIN: My guest is LNP Senator for Queensland, Senator Amanda Stoker. She's Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations, and for Women. Let's move onto a different area. Today, the Reserve Bank kept interest rates where they are, yet everyone who's trying to buy a house, their first home in Australia, knows that the housing market is way overheated and overpriced. They also know it's a global problem. What, if anything, is the Federal Government going to do about the overheated housing market?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, I'm the first person to acknowledge both how important it is for people to be able to aspire to and achieve their own home, and I'm the first to acknowledge it's an expensive thing to do. But what we have done as a government is brought in the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, where 10,000 guarantees are provided per financial year to help Australians to get their own home sooner with a deposit that is as little as 5 per cent. We brought in the family-
STEVE AUSTIN: - Experts I speak to say that's just forcing up the price of houses. It's having the opposite effect.
AMANDA STOKER: Look, I see what- I see that point, but it's not the only thing we've done to try and help here. And we've brought in the Family Home Guarantee, that's
about assisting single parents with children to enter or re-enter the housing market. And we've brought in the New Home Guarantee that provides 10,000 guarantees for first home buyers to purchase their home sooner, for where it's a newly constructed home. I mean, it's worth remembering that just a year ago, many people were predicting a complete collapse of the housing market, something in the order of 20 per cent, associated with COVID.
STEVE AUSTIN: - The big bank economists were, yes. The big- the economists in the big banks were and they were utterly wrong. There was one Queensland economist that got it right. They were all wrong. Absolutely, yes. Does the Government acknowledge that it's overheated?
AMANDA STOKER: Well, look, I'd suggest- well, I'd suggest that the first part of the reason is that the Government has worked to make sure that the investment so many Australians have in their homes didn't tank with COVID by making sure that our construction industry was able to keep going throughout the rockiest parts of the COVID period. We acknowledge that there is an ongoing difficulty with people who want to get into their first home. We've got measures in place to help with that. But ultimately, what we're seeing at the moment represents the redirection of $220 billion worth of savings by households and businesses because they haven't been able to travel and interact with the rest of the world, being directed instead to housing. So I'm optimistic that as we re-open to the world, that glut of money going into property will ease. But in the meantime, we've got these measures in place to help people who are struggling to get their foothold in the market, to be able to aspire to and achieve that important goal.
STEVE AUSTIN: Is there any acknowledgement in the Federal Government that loose lending and very cheap interest rates have actually led in large part to homeowners being shut out of owning their own home due to being squeezed out by property investors? In other words, exactly the opposite result of the Government's intention is happening.
AMANDA STOKER: Look, I think we need to acknowledge the complexity of this market. I mean, for many people, low interest rates are what make a purchase of a home within reach. I think back to my parents when they were trying to get into the housing market with 18 per cent interest rates, and it was utterly prohibitive. They got there in the end, but not without an awful lot of hardship. The reality is that the happy medium is where we need to pitch. And with low interest rates comes advantages, but there are disadvantages too, and I acknowledge that they are both a part of the challenges faced by people trying to get into the market.
STEVE AUSTIN: I'll leave it there. Thanks for your time, Senator Amanda Stoker.
AMANDA STOKER: Thanks, Steve.
Media Contacts:
Valeria Cheglov – 0438 494 351 Patrick Hannaford – 0424 625 518
Authorised by Senator The Hon Amanda Stoker, Liberal National Party, Queensland