Anika Wells MP on ABC Afternoon Briefing


SUBJECTS: Climate change action, Christian Porter referred to the Privileges Committee.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Time for my panel this afternoon and this afternoon it’s Nationals Senator Perin Davey and Labor MP Anika Wells. Welcome to both of you.


KARVELAS: Just Perin starting with you. Do you want the Nationals to sign off on net zero emissions by 2050?

PERIN DAVEY, SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES: What I want to make sure we do is that we hear from all of my Nationals colleagues. We hear all of the feedback they’ve taken from their constituents and that whatever we sign up to we make sure we’re not selling out our regions. We’re not selling out our farmers and taking away their right to farm and their property rights and we’re not pulling the rug out from underneath our very prosperous resource industries across Australia. And then we are promoting opportunities for the future. So we are actually grabbing those opportunities for the regions. We’re looking at our mineral sands mining. We’re looking at our lithium mining. We’re looking at how the regions play a part in a lower emissions future.

KARVELAS: Ok, you still haven’t answered my question though. If all of that is taken into consideration, which the government says its based on its modelling it has, do you think the Nationals should sign up to net zero emissions by 2050?

DAVEY: Look I can’t, I’m not going to sign a blank cheque until we actually have that final conversation. I’m not going to say yes or no. I know the public want to hear yes or no.

KARVELAS: If you look at the polling, I think they want you to say yes actually.

DAVEY: Well yeah I talk to people and they want me to say yes. And I say if that’s going to cost you an extra $2000 on your power bills they say no. So this is the detail I want to understand.

KARVELAS: But that’s not going to happen is it? If you look at where actually the nation’s moving, that would be inaccurate to tell them that they’re going to be paying that extra, right?

DAVEY: Well you look at what’s happening in England. And they signed up. And at the moment they’re having an energy crisis and their gas prices are through the roof. So I I just want to be more comfortable about our pathway forward and to ensure that we’re not actually cutting off our noses to spite our faces. I absolutely believe in a lower emissions future, absolutely 100 per cent. But I want to make sure it’s about opportunity, not taxes, not higher costs.

KARVELAS: Ok Anika, you heard the response there. Nationals still not signing on is that reasonable that they want to figure this out before the PM signs up to anything?

WELLS: No. The Nationals have had plenty of time to do their homework and consult their constituencies about this. They’ve had eight years in fact. And I totally reject this false dichotomy about only Australians in the regions are affected by climate change or want action on climate change. And only Australians in the city care about seeing action on climate change. Climate change effects every single suburb in our country. Whether it is in the regions or if it’s in Brisbane suburbs like mine, where insurance premiums go up because our king tides flood our suburbs more often. Or our hospitals, the Prince Charles Hospital, has more ramping because of the air quality giving rise to more asthmatic admissions. It has an impact on everybody. And if the Nationals haven’t done their homework to date, they should hand over the reins and let people that care about it, legislate.

KARVELAS: OK Perin, Bridget McKenzie told the Senate things will get ugly if the Prime Minister pushes ahead without the support of the Nationals. Will things get ugly and what will that look like?

DAVEY: Again I can’t pre-empt what is going to happen. What we do want to do is go together forward. We have a very strong Coalition. We have a strong track record working together on these issues. We’ve got a strong track record since 2013. That’s how we’ve reduced emissions by 20 per cent since 2005. With most of that appearing since we took over in 2013. And we will continue to work collaboratively provided we get listened to. We do not want to be walked over. We have very constructive conversations. I don’t think it’ll get ugly because I think that we will be able to hopefully land on a way forward. But if worse comes to worst and and if we’re not confident that our regions and the people we represent are going to be protected. And importantly get, you know, benefit from the opportunities then we’re going to have to have a very serious party room discussion about the way forward.

KARVELAS: Ok and if the PM wants to still go ahead, because that’s his intention, would that be unacceptable?

DAVEY: Well that is up to…I mean we still haven’t worked out what we’re taking to the PM yet so it’s very premature to be trying to focus on hypotheticals.

KARVELAS: Now Barnaby Joyce says that this will all happen by tomorrow. Is that when you’re going to make your final decision?

DAVEY: I hope so.

KARVELAS: So tomorrow is D-day?

DAVEY: It’s not D-day. You know, we have we still have a bit of time. But we would like it to be by tomorrow.

KARVELAS: OK what would hold that up?

DAVEY: Well we’ve got to make sure that our party room…Barnaby Joyce has said this time and time again, he wants to make sure our party room is comfortable where we have landed collectively. Because you’re well aware there are many different views in our party room and it is about finding the right thing that we’re all comfortable with.

KARVELAS: Ok Anika obviously a deal is going to be potentially made here. Is it reasonable the Nationals want to provide the best for their regions and making sure their regions are supported.

WELLS: No. And it is looking pretty ugly I think. We are watching Australia’s worst group assignment in action, staggering towards the due date. And the shoddiest member of the group is the Prime Minister. Failing to lead, failing to take action, failing to do all of this years ago. And now being held to ransom. And you know some people are going to expect us to applaud when the government finally rolls over and does net zero in the days to come. And I won’t be applauding. Because there are two big questions out of this. If the secret modelling, that they won’t release but is being leaked, really says that there are five times the renewable jobs in acting, then how many jobs have we already lost to other advanced countries in the race, the global race for renewables? And how many billions of dollars is the Prime Minister going to throw at the Nationals to get them into line? Because those billions of dollars, that is taxpayer money. And when they talk about technology not taxes, when they talk about not using taxes. Taxes are the money that they’re going to throw at the Nats to get this over the line. So I think all taxpayers deserve to know a lot more detail than what we’re getting out of the government at the moment.

KARVELAS: Anika, I want to stay with you and change the topic. I want to move to something that’s happened while we’ve been on air. Speaker Tony Smith has cleared the way for Christian Porter’s blind trust to be put before the privileges committee by allowing a motion to be put and voted on. So Tony Smith has granted precedence. This is kind of a significant development. Just reminding our viewers about what happened here. This is the contributions to his legal fund that was not disclosed and ultimately meant that he stood down as a minister. But he still hasn’t disclosed. What’s happened here and why is this significant?

WELLS: Well, let me think about what I can say in and out of school as a member of the privileges committee which meets tonight at 6:00 o’clock. There have been a number of referrals on that matter to privileges for us to consider for the first time this evening. So I’m not sure what the Speaker has said while we’ve been on air, like you said. But that matter had been referred to privileges by two other members of the parliament prior to this afternoon. So members of the House privileges committee will now have to consider those three individual referrals and the specific things that they ask us to consider. And we will do so from 6:00 o’clock.

KARVELAS: OK thank you that is useful. But I am going to try and push the friendship we’re having here on air.

WELLS: Fire away.

KARVELAS: Yeah ok, what can the privileges committee do. What actually like…my viewers watching going, what can they actually force him to do? Can they force him to reveal who has donated?

WELLS: Yes so the privileges committee is a lot less powerful than it gets written up as. Because a lot of those powers that it used to have were taken away when the Parliamentary Privileges Act was updated. I want to talk off the top of my head in ’88. It’s been a long time since law school. So some of the things that we can do is, at first instance, write and ask the member to account for whatever it is - the matters that have been referred. If we find that account to be insufficient, then there are sort of things we can do. You might remember the Bruce Bilson matter. Far before my time but in the end the privileges committee condemned the member for his actions there. And that went to the floor of the House. So obviously we’re a very long way from that. And I don’t want to, you know, we haven’t considered it yet so it’s not on foot. But I would say there have been a number of referrals of that matter. So there are going to be a number of questions to consider, not just the one.
KARVELAS: Yeah ok, Perin Davey, what are your reflections on this? Would you like to know who donated to this fund? Is that sort of a reasonable thing for voters to expect that MPs reveal these things?

DAVEY: Well I think one of the things is that we also have to consider the people who did donate to the fund. And they donated under the understanding that it would be a confidential donation. But the fact is that actually Christian Porter setting it up as a blind trust is more appropriate than we have seen other members of this place raise funds through crowdfunding. Where people donate under a screen name and while they might record it on their register of interests, screen names are not identified.

KARVELAS: You’re doing that thing where you go look over there. I’m asking about what he’s done. I don’t want to look over there. I’m looking at this. Do you really think this is a reasonable thing that we don’t know where the money came from?

DAVEY: Well he’s done it as a legal blind trust with an arms-length process.

KARVELAS: It might be legal, it might be legal but it doesn’t seem accountable.

DAVEY: He has done it transparently though and told people what he was doing or what he has done, which is a blind trust. Whereas other people have said look at me I’m so transparent, I’ve raised money through crowdfunding. You still can’t tell who it’s from because it’s you know Doctor Who, screen name Doctor Who, or Bart Simpson. But I’m reporting that I’ve raised money through that way. So I think we do, if we’re going to hold people to account, we need to hold everyone to the same level of account. At least with a blind trust it is a legal process at arm’s length and Mr. Porter would have no idea who donated to it.

WELLS: Can I just say two things to that Patricia quickly.

KARVELAS: Yep, briefly yep.

WELLS: Firstly telling people that you’re not going to tell them something is not transparency. And secondly I don’t think as a first principle of our Australian democracy we should be worried about people who wish to remain anonymous when interacting and impacting the Australian political democracy. I’m out.

KARVELAS: And just finally on that.

DAVEY: They impacted the legal process not the political democracy.

KARVELAS: We’re pressing pause on this, my next guest is waiting. But finally Anika I think it’s your twins first birthday. Congratulations.

WELLS: It is.

KARVELAS: Twins and being a member of parliament sounds really umm…relaxing? How’s it going?

WELLS: {laughs} It’s been an emotional day. Thank you to all of your listeners and your viewers who have chimed in along the way. And you didn’t know this, not today obviously, but a number of times I’ve been on your show and they’ve been just out of sight on the bouncer. So thank you to everybody who’s made it possible.

KARVELAS: Yeah I know it is emotional working full time and having children. Twins - never tried that - but it sounds very hard. But you’re doing an excellent job.

WELLS: Thank you Patricia. See you later.

DAVEY: Thank you.

KARVELAS: Thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it. Nationals Senator Perin Davey and Labor MP Anika Wells joining us there.