SUBJECT/S: Renewable Energy Target; Troop deployment to Iraq; Euthanasia

CALLUM DENNESS: Joining me now is Labor Member for Greenway in New South Wales, Michelle Rowland, good morning.



DENNESS: Labor has come out and said that it will no longer negotiate with the Government over the RET, why?

ROWLAND: It’s quite clear this Government has no commitment to ensuring that the renewable energy sector in Australia is given confidence, is given some security, and is given a sustainable footing. We were very prepared, as the relevant Shadow Ministers said a number of weeks ago, very prepared to have discussions and see if a compromise decision could be reached. But this Government is intent on cutting the target by 40 per cent. That is simply unsustainable and that is a position Labor cannot support.

DENNESS: What sort of state does this leave the industry in now that we know uncertainty has driven down investment, driven away investment in the renewable sector?

ROWLAND: At least now we have the target intact as it is as at today but I think the sector needs to have a government that demonstrates its commitment. I remember even ten years ago, Blacktown was part of a Federal Government initiative called Solar Cities and I remember getting lectures at the time about how important the sector was going to be in a decade’s time, and the fact that even then we had companies going overseas to look at manufacturing, things like PV technology, and China was emerging as one of those countries where those jobs and investments were going to go because Australia didn’t simply have the security. Well look what has happened. We have had this Government coming in, doing a review undertaken by a climate sceptic, we have Government members who are hopelessly divided on the matter, and we have a Government that is intent on saying we need to cut the target by 40 per cent. We as Labor cannot simply stand by and agree to those sorts of conditions which would only make things worse for the sector.

DENNESS: The Government now will try negotiate with the cross benchers to reduce the target. Is there a risk here that that can lead to a worse outcome for the renewables sector, as in a bigger cut to the target.

ROWLAND: That is up to the Government and the cross benchers as to what they negotiate. But I think the important thing here is that Labor is very clear about its support for this sector. We support jobs, we support investment and we support the fact that we now need to have a strong target for renewable energy going into the future.

There are reports this morning that the Government is considering sending an additional 200 to 400 troops to Iraq. Is this an example of the mission creep which people warned about in the lead up to our initial deployment?

ROWLAND: I think it would be very difficult to draw any conclusions at this stage. We only know what we have been seeing in the media. We haven’t had a full briefing as an Opposition on this matter. Our position on existing Iraq troop deployments remains the same, however we would need to receive a full briefing from the Government before we could make any informed comment on that matter.

DENNESS: We do know that Washington has asked for an additional commitment from Australia. Given that, do you think the Government should respond to that? Is it time to have another debate on this issue?

ROWLAND: Labor has been very clear about the principles which underpin our support for this mission. They include matters such as ensuring that Australia only maintains its presence only until such time as the Iraqi Government and Iraqi forces can bring the situation under control. And, for example, if the Government of Iraq and its forces do anything which is unacceptable from a policy sense then we will withdraw. So we would certainly apply those principles to any proposal that may come before the Parliament or indeed may be considered by the Government itself.

DENNESS: Finally, a Senate Committee has recommended Parliamentarians being granted a conscience vote on the matter of euthanasia. Do you support that call and what’s your view on euthanasia as an issue?


ROWLAND: I’m interested to see that the Committee report didn’t make a final recommendation but did recommend a conscience vote. Labor has always had a conscience vote on this matter and in the mid-1990s I recall this coming before the Parliament and there was a conscience vote then. I do know that this is a matter that transcends party lines and it is very much one based on personal experience. And I note the comments from Senator Ian McDonald who said, after listening to some of the evidence that came before the Committee, you really have to show some empathy towards those points of view. Personally, my view is that with the appropriate safeguards that it should be permitted. I think there is strong community sentiment in this direction. And again, I’m not going to reveal all my personal experiences, and we all have our own, but I think it would be incorrect for anyone to make judgements about the views that anyone else holds in their conscience about this matter without stepping into their shoes and showing some similar empathy.

Okay, Michelle Rowland. Thanks for your time.


ROWLAND: My pleasure.