Interview with Allison Langdon & The Hon Richard Marles MP, Today Show, Channel Nine

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The Hon Peter Dutton MP

Minister for Defence

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15 October 2021

Subjects: COVID-19; states opening up; climate change; emissions reduction.

ALLISON LANGDON: We are joined by Defence Minister Peter Dutton and Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles. Nice to see you both this morning. Richard, are you isolating, is that right? 

RICHARD MARLES: I am. I’m in quarantine. I discovered that I was at a Tier 1 site about a week ago and I became aware of that yesterday. So I’m now in quarantine at home for at least the next seven days. So that is life in 2021. 

ALLISON LANGDON: Look, it is. You can get some tips from Peter because he’s done it often enough. But can I ask you this, just hearing those numbers yesterday… 

PETER DUTTON: …Ally, it sounds pretty convenient; he’s supposed to be going to Parliament on Sunday. So what, a week at home Richard? Will you be okay? 

RICHARD MARLES: I’ll manage. I was really looking forward to going to Parliament, but yeah, I will manage. Thank you for your concern Peter. 

ALLISON LANGDON: I love it how much you two love each other. Come on Richard – I mean Peter, you know he’s gutted that he’s not getting to see you next week. But I do want to ask you Richard, just hearing those numbers yesterday – and I think we all felt that they were heading in the right direction – did it hit pretty hard? 

RICHARD MARLES: Yeah, look, all of those numbers are really difficult to hear and as we’ve, you know, seen this unfold in Victoria and we’ve seen every kind of new peak reached, it is really difficult, but having said that, you know, we need to learn to live with Covid. That is what’s going on right now and the way in which we do that is by getting vaccinated. 

And actually the number, as we’ve come to learn, that really matters is our vaccination rate and that’s going well in Victoria as you’ve reported. We hope that next week we’re – or at some point soon we’re getting to that 70 per cent mark, but I just think when you look at the numbers yesterday what it says to every Victorian – and for that matter every Australian – you’ve got to go out and get vaccinated. That’s how we get to the other side of this. 

ALLISON LANGDON: So does Dan stick to the reopening plan from next week? 

RICHARD MARLES: Look, I think he’s making the right decisions, but I think the logic of what we’re doing here is we are trying to make our way forward and learn to live with the virus. And, you know, that’s what’s happening in New South Wales as well. And so it’s important that we keep going down a path of opening up, but the key to opening up is people getting vaccinated and so the vast numbers of Victorians which are making the decision to get the jab, that needs to continue. They need to be – they should be commended, as they are, and it’s really important that we get there. That’s the key to getting past this. 

ALLISON LANGDON: And speaking of reopening Peter, Annastacia Palaszczuk, she gave her biggest hint this week that she’s planning to reopen before the end of the year. I mean that’s a nice Christmas present for yourself and for my co-host. 

PETER DUTTON: It would be great to see you guys – it would be great to see everybody in Queensland holidaying and at tourist destinations around the country because those cafes, those restaurants, those motels, hotels and caravan parks, they’re all doing it very tough and we really want to see things get back to normal. 

I agree with everything Richard said in terms of we need to start living with this, adjusting our mind set. There will be, you know, thousands of cases, but we need to look at the hospitalisation rates, and that’s the most important figure to focus on now. The hospitals have been bolstered and that support is there. 

If you haven’t had a vaccination yet, you must go and get it and speak to your GP and do it as quickly as possible because once people start to move around and they go to restaurants and they go and visit friends and businesses open up, people return back to work, you will see a spike in the numbers, and that will be the new reality, but it won’t impact on people the way that it has 18 months ago because people have been vaccinated, and that’s the whole idea. 

ALLISON LANGDON: And look, that’s going to be the drama for Queensland trying to get to that 80 per cent by hopefully mid-December. You’re still going to have some of those regions who at the moment I think some of them are still less than 30 per cent double vaxxed, so the race is certainly on there. 

Now the climate conference in Glasgow next month. Peter, I mean, there’s still a handful of Nats holding your climate policy to ransom. 

PETER DUTTON: Well there are people who are really passionate about their regions, Ally. So I think it’s important to recognise that there’s nothing the Government will be putting forward that destroys jobs or destroys economies and I think it’s important for the National Party to be able to have their discussion, which they’re doing this Sunday. We really respect that and people feel very passionately about their regions, as you would understand. I mean there might be decisions that countries take that, you know, they’re not going to purchase coal or other commodities from our country, but that will be a decision for them and I think that’s a really important point to make. 

ALLISON LANGDON: But your issue there Pete, is you’ve got within the Nats like… 

PETER DUTTON: …so they’re representatives of coal mining sectors and… 

ALLISON LANGDON: …you’ve got some within the Nats who are fundamentally opposed to net zero. So it doesn’t matter what evidence you put in front of them, they are never going to get on board. 

PETER DUTTON: But Ally, for you and I in our local communities, I mean there are no windmills. We’re not in a family that goes out in fluoro vests each day where mum and dad are both employed in that regional town working in that industry. So, you know, their livelihoods are what those members are rightly concerned about. In some of those communities if mining shuts then the house values go down. So I think they’re legitimate concerns to be expressed and the Nats will talk through that; and ultimately I hope that we arrive at a position that’s going to, you know, do what is right by our country. That’s what I think the Prime Minister’s promoting and what he wants to take to Glasgow and we’ve just got to get that balance right. 

ALLISON LANGDON: I mean you were right – they are absolutely legitimate concerns for people, you know, what do we care about most? Getting food on the table, having jobs and being able to care for our kids. They’re really important. But it’s your job as politicians then to provide or to futureproof those regions, isn’t it? And I guess Richard, this is going to be a real test of the PM’s leadership and his negotiating skills. 

RICHARD MARLES: Well completely and the Prime Minister has failed the test of leadership for as long as he’s been the Prime Minister to be honest, we’ve seen that through Covid, but we’re seeing it in relation to policy around energy and climate change. I mean the fact that the Government can’t commit to net zero emissions by 2050 is utterly astonishing, given that that’s really the underpinning principle of the Paris accord, to which this Government has signed up Australia. And you’re looking at miners, you’re looking at the NFF, you’re looking at the BCA, you’re looking at states around Australia all who have committed to net zero emissions by 2050. A whole lot of them have gone further than that. The people who are lagging behind are the federal government. 

And it’s obviously important to be looking after regions. We need to be doing that. Mining still has an absolutely positive future in this country, but we need to be thinking about the jobs that we’re going to lose if we don’t take up the opportunity of really developing renewable energy. We need to be thinking about the warnings that are being given to us about how a global economy will penalise us if we don’t move down the path of zero net emissions by 2050 and what that means in terms of jobs right across the country. This shouldn’t be anywhere near as hard as it is, and it’s because the Government’s Party Room is in complete disarray and at the end of the day, that is a function of Scott Morrison’s utter inability to lead. 

ALLISON LANGDON: Pete, I imagine you’d like to respond to that one. 

PETER DUTTON: Well Ally, the problem for Labor is that they go into towns like Gladstone or into the Hunter and tell these miners that everything is okay, they’ve got nothing to fear from Labor, their jobs are secure, their house values aren’t going to go down, and the miners know, and those local communities know, that they are being lied to face-to-face by Anthony Albanese. And that is a reality, and it shows the double talk that Labor’s involved in. 

Absolutely, you know, from my perspective, I want zero 2050, but I want to do it particularly from a state perspective like mine, where we can have certainty for those communities and that’s what the Nats are fighting for, and that’s what the Coalition has always fought for and it’s why we won those seats at the last election. So we’ll get the balance right. I think that we can arrive at an agreement and, you know, this will happen over the next few days, but I think it’s incredibly important that the Nats are allowed to have their party room to discuss it, to air all of these issues. 

But there’s no sense Labor, you know, telling people one thing in the inner city suburbs and then the complete opposite when they go out to regional areas. We’re dealing with the reality of it. You know, we want to see electric vehicles. We want to see renewables. We want to see industries that are sustainable. We don’t want to destroy jobs and our economy, which is what Labor is promising to do at the moment. 

ALLISON LANGDON: All right. It’s fiery that one isn’t it. Hey look, I’m worried about you both this morning – I mean Richard, I hope you go okay seven days in isolation; Pete, this was you just a couple of minutes ago. So thankfully the skies cleared just in time. 

RICHARD MARLES: That is so bleak. 

PETER DUTTON: Timing’s everything in politics. Timing is everything in politics. 

ALLISON LANGDON: It is, indeed. The sun shone at the right moment, didn’t it?

PETER DUTTON: Look at this, beautiful blue sky. Come to Queensland. 

ALLISON LANGDON: All right. We want to! Mate, just let us in. You guys take care of yourself. We’ll talk next week. Thank you.


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