4BC with Scott Emerson

SUBJECTS: Keating remarks on China; Morrison’s electric vehicle backflip. 

And now it’s time for our weekly version of Question Time. We’re joined now by Labor’s member for Lilley Anika Wells and the LNP member for Ryan Julian Simmons. How are you both today?


ANIKA WELLS, MEMBER FOR LILLEY: Real well. Free and out of quarantine.

EMERSON: Wonderful that’s very good news. Now let’s start with former Prime Minister Paul Keating. He spoke at the National Press Club this week. Now start with you Julian. What do you think of his comments, particularly on China?

SIMMONDS: Well I think I think they’re pretty out of step with Australians. I mean we we want to protect democratic values and we want to project that across our region. So when somebody like a former Prime Minister, like Keating, who is a mentor to the Labor Party and to the Labor MPs, talks about you know appeasing China about…about, you know it’s not our problem if they’re aggressive to a large democracy like Taiwan. I think they feel like like this is completely out of step. And you know Australians would be concerned because the Labor Party like to say that they’re in lockstep with the government and the reality is that you know they’re very quite divided on this. And that you know when China gave Australia that list of demands to re-engage with them that included giving up on our free press, giving up on our parliamentary democracy, I think Australian’s eyes were open to the fact that we have to be out there in our region pushing democratic values.

EMERSON: Well Julian Simmonds yep look it was extraordinary to see Paul Keating come out today. Anika Wells last week we were talking about Malcolm Turnbull and Julian had to defend those kind of comments and deal with it there. Now you’ve got…

SIMMONDS: We certainly all have our miserable ghosts don’t we?

EMERSON: It was a miserable ghost as you say there. But well Anika Wells you’ve got your own miserable ghost now, Paul Keating. What do you think about Paul Keating’s comments?

WELLS: Well just on what Julian is saying there. It all seems a little bit two-faced and opportunistic from the government this week, since Keating at the Press Club. It seems a bit at odds to me to adamantly defend free speech when it comes from people like George Christensen, Craig Kelly, Gerard Rennick. Christensen and Kelly sit in the government party room as we speak. But when it comes to shutting down former PMs on either side just because they don’t like what they say, it all seems a bit…. 

EMERSON: Well I don’t think anyone’s talking about shutting them down there Anika. 

SIMMONDS: Good pivot. We’re happy for them to say it but….

EMERSON: Anika, what did you think about the content of what he said there? Do you agree with what Paul Keating said?

WELLS: I have a lot of respect for Paul Keating. And I always think that he is worth listening to. But I also think it’s worth listening to what Penny Wong, who is our Shadow Foreign Minister as we speak, says about this. And she makes the point and I agree with her that China has changed its positioning. It’s changed the way it relates to other nations in our region. It’s changed the way it relates to us here in Australia. So our response needs to change and will always stand up for Australian values. We’re pretty consistent.

SIMMONDS: Anika you saying there about Paul Keating and Penny Wong there. But for instance in terms of when the AUKUS agreement was announced there, Labor said ‘yep we support this’. But Paul Keating, he bagged Labor, bagged Penny Wong for her comments there. So who do you back there, Paul Keating or Penny Wong?

WELLS: Well I think that’s good evidence that the long shadows that Julian and his colleagues are trying to cast about what Paul Keating says being sort of the dictum of federal Labor. That is evidence that that is not the case. Paul and Penny disagreed on AUKUS.  Paul and Penny disagree on China. Penny leads our foreign policy in federal Labor. And so if you want to know what we would do in government you should listen to what Penny Wong is saying.

SIMMONDS: I think though that Australians struggle with the bob each way that, like you have just added your comments and that Albo has. It’s that you won’t criticise Keating. But you say oh we might disagree with him on point to point. Australians want to know that you will robustly defend Australian values. That’s what the coalition government does.

WELLS: Weeellll…

SIMMONDS: I was pretty clear in criticising our former Prime Minister last week. I am pretty relaxed about that. So I think you got to do the same thing if you want people to believe you.

WELLS: You have a bob each way. You will not criticise Christenson and Kelly and Rennick because you need their votes in the parliament as we speak.  Bob each way - you will not criticise them. You defend their right to free speech but you also distance yourself and say they don’t represent you when they sit in your party room with you and together you make decisions as a government 

SIMMONDS: That’s a good try at a pivot but I think there’s a lot of difference between a backbencher versus a former Labor Prime Minister who your shadow treasurer has written an entire thesis on. About you know his legacy and how it influences the modern day Labor Party right.

WELLS: Now I think it’s the same long shadow you’re trying to draw there. Why is it the case that you can distance yourself from people in your own party room and say that has nothing to do with government policy. But former prime ministers weighing in. Somehow we have to account for ourselves but you can distance yourself from yours?

SIMMONDS: I think Australians are worried about the aggressiveness of China. They want to know that they have a government that doesn’t have a bob each way when it comes to national security. That’s firmly in their tent around their democratic rights. 

EMERSON: Well let’s talk about another issue there I’m sure you’re firmly going to disagree on. That’s well and this is interesting, but electric vehicles. Now obviously the Morrison government came out with its its policy this week including $250 million for charging stations. Now go back three years ago Scott Morrison, Anika Wells where he was bagging then leader Bill Shorten, Labor’s leader Bill Shorten over his electric vehicle policy. What was your thoughts Anika Wells when you heard Scott Morrison come out with his policy three years later?

WELLS: An Olympic-worthy backflip and you know Brisbane 2032 maybe he’s in the running for that. Incredulous. I was actually at, that was the press conference I was at, the sort of the EV-scandal week of the campaign back in 2019. And for the PM to claim he never ridiculed EV technology, when he said they’re not going to tow your boat, or your caravan. They’re coming to save the weekend for Australians. The reality is, like climate change, like vaccination, like the Covid response, it is the states doing the heavy lifting. And with respect to electric vehicles, the Queensland state government built a $5.3 million electric superhighway back in 2019. So there’s 31 EV charging sites out of that. There is one in my electorate of Lilley at the Toombul shops for locals listening in. And in June they’ve announced another 18 for Outback QLD. So it’s the states doing the heavy lifting and Morrison trying to take the credit just like every other policy area.

EMERSON: Julian Simmons what’s your response to that?

SIMMONDS: Well that it’s Australians doing the heavy lifting. Australians have made the choice to take up rooftop solar on a per capita basis that far outstrips the rest of the world. And they want to make choices about whether electric vehicles are in the best interests of their family. We as a government want to support the infrastructure that’s required for them to make those choices.

EMERSON: But Julian Simmonds in terms of the electric vehicle policy. I mean look everyone heard Scott Morrison three years ago bagging Bill Shorten’s policy. He claimed today, Scott Morrison…he claimed this week that Scott Morrison said that Bill Shorten had a mandate. There was no mandate, there was a target. I mean clearly he’s been mimicking Labor’s policy from three years ago. 

SIMMONDS: Well there’s a big difference right? That was responding to a Labor policy that said a certain percentage of Australians had to take up EV vehicles by a certain arbitrary date. Right? Now that is forcing choices on Australian families that may or may not be in the best interests of their family. That’s never what we’ve been about. We’ve always been about choice. And so we’re saying if Australians want to take this up…and I personally think that they will. It’s our job to support the infrastructure to enable them to make that choice. It’s not our job as a government to say this percentage of people must take it up by this date. And that’s what Labor will always believe in, forcing people to do things.

WELLS: That’s absolutely not what we said. And I think Australians are now on to the Morrison government trying to verbal us to desperately stay in power. Have you ever come across a Prime Minister less interested in doing his own job. Trying to say Australians should be responsible rather than himself and his own government. Honestly!

SIMMONDS: When you when you hold so many different policy positions that the Labor Party do in such a short period of time, it’s pretty easy for everybody to be confused about where they stand.  

EMERSON: Alright well both of you there Anika Wells and Julian Simmonds

WELLS: {inaudible} Sorry Scott.

EMERSON: No it’s ok Anika. That’s ok. Look we’ve been hearing this week about Scott Morrison on the hustings. I reckon Anthony Albanese’s on the hustings. I think the election is coming early next year, not this side of Christmas, but early next year. But I’m sure Anika Wells and Julian Simmons were going to have a lot of time to talk before we do get to that election. Great to have you both again on 4BC Drive’s own Question Time today. We will catch you again next week.

SIMMONDS: Talk to you next week.

EMERSON: See you Julian, see you Anika.

WELLS: See you later. You’re always welcome at one of my mobile offices.

EMERSON: Cheers guys, bye.