WEDNESDAY, 21 June 2017


Subject/s: Gas export restrictions, Citizenship test English language requirements

TOM CONNELL: Now, I am joined in the studio by Tim Hammond. We are of course talking a lot about energy prices at the moment. Josh Frydenberg and the Prime Minister announced yesterday we are going to have gas export restrictions. Is that going to work? When is it going to bring prices down and is Labor on board Tim Hammond thanks for your time today?

 HAMMOND: Tom, great to be with you.

 CONNELL: What do you think of the gas export restrictions, desired effect? Good policy?

 HAMMOND: The proof will be in the pudding here Tom. It remains to be seen as to whether this will do anything meaningful in relation to making it more affordable for mums and dads and manufacturers and businesses to pay for their energy. The Liberal Government have had a long time to fix this. They have been in power for four years and what we are really seeing here is some short-term measures that no-one has any real confidence or guarantee...

CONNELL: They’ve probably been hamstrung by huge contracts signed under Federal Labor in 2012 in terms of the exports. What do you think if the policy? You know what is on the table, they are not saying this is a solution for everything but just take the heat out of the short, possible shortage of supply. Will it work on that front?

HAMMOND: If the Liberals were really interested in taking the heat out of this conversation they would adopt a policy of some consistency which is what Federal Labor has done for many years. We have made it very clear that what we need is a gas plan that is in the national interest. The question we need to ask ourselves is what is being done by Josh Frydenberg and Malcolm Turnbull in the national interest? I don't see any sign, any time soon, of prices coming down and nothing like Malcolm Turnbull says in terms of half of where it is at. It is just another sign of a Government in disarray.

 CONNELL: We’ve got contracts signed. You’ve supply and obviously demand. This is obviously looking at the supply side but another way to look at the supply side is moratoriums on gas exploration in the States, do they need to be lifted?

 HAMMOND: This requires responsibility and leadership at a Federal level which is not being seen now. It is true there is a multiplicity of factors here in relation to why we do not have affordable energy prices and gas is part of that conversation...

 CONNELL: But the States have that power.

HAMMOND: It requires leadership at a Federal level which we are not seeing. What we have the ability to do, at a Federal level, is offer a platform in the national interest. That’s not what we are seeing here.

 CONNELL: The States have the power to unlock more reserves do they not?

 HAMMOND: New South Wales has the power, Victoria has the power, and Western Australia has the power. It all needs to be part of a larger conversation...

 HAMMOND: But it can be part of the conversation all it likes, if the States don't want it to happen, it won’t. They need to change their mind on this don't they? Well I’m asking you? Do they? Should they?

HAMMOND: This is a matter where we need leadership of all the parties to come to the table. We need suppliers to come to the table, we need those who are extracting the gas to come to the table we need the States to come to the table it all requires leadership.

CONNELL: What does come to the table mean? Does it mean you think these States should lift the moratorium?

HAMMOND: It means coming to a position where we see the national interest being served which is a ready supply of domestic gas in line with Labor's national interest test.

 CONNELL: Does that mean lifting the moratorium or not?

 HAMMOND: What it means is making sure every State and Territory works with a Federal Government that shows some leadership...

CONNELL: So what is the leadership, you are at a Federal level, you have a ministerial portfolio in this area, what should they do?

 HAMMOND: I remarked while I was at the APIA conference over in Perth only a couple weeks ago. What it needs is a consensus reached on behalf of the States and the Territories and the Federal Government about delivering a long term discussion of what is in the national interest to deliver. We look at the Queensland model which appears to be working; we look at the WA model which appears to be working. It is about persuading those States and territories to come on board and releasing gas into the market which makes it affordable for mums and dads. It is about having a national conversation.

CONNELL: You are having the conversation now.

HAMMOND: We are not having the conversation now…

 CONNELL: The Federal Government says as well they should lift the moratorium on gas exploration. You’ve just said it’s working well in Queensland and Western Australia should that be extended to New South Wales and Victoria?

HAMMOND: Different States have different requirements and I don't think these things can be looked at in isolation.

 CONNELL: We’re also looking at the national energy

 HAMMOND: We are, and that’s what I keep coming back to Tom, this is about what is in the national interest.

 CONNELL: But you’ve looked a lot at how much gas we have, future energy supplies, Labor talks about reducing emissions gas is lower than coal. Looking at all of that and considering all that is it your opinion or Labor’s the moratorium should be lifted?

 HAMMOND: We need to make sure that what we see here is a plentiful supply of gas into domestic markets.

 CONNELL: Is plentiful meaning more from Vic and New South Wales?

HAMMOND: It will be a matter for each of the states and territories to work out what works best. But what it requires is a national interest test and leadership from a federal government which is not what we are seeing with Josh Frydenberg and Malcolm Turnbull as we make a just transition into a renewable energy future

 CONNELL: I’ll just get you on citizenship as well. The English language test, Tony Burke said in 2006 we need stricter English speaking requirements, now it’s snobbery.

 HAMMOND: Look, Tony Burke and the federal Labor have been very consistent in relation to looking at this legislation which requires a level six, university degree level English requirement in order to be considered a citizen of this country, that is snobbery.

CONNELL: But the Government is saying we’re getting caught up in what that level six is and essentially it’s a TAFE standard, it’s not, they say, a requirement to follow an academic discussion at university for example.

HAMMOND: What this really is Tom, is a desperate over reach from a Government that is frantically searching for something to hide the fact that there isdisarray here in every level of what’s happening under Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. The reason for that is this; the legislation that needs to be examined on its merits is very clear in that what is suggested here is an elitist snobbish level of English proficiency in order to be considered an Australian in this country. It’s not right, federal Labor won’t stand for it and caucus unanimously backed in opposing the legislation and the reason for that is this country was built on the blood sweat and tears of many generations of migrants who have contributed so much and if the weights were dropped on them, those Nonas and Popas, if the weights were dropped on those great Australian’s to pass a level six English proficiency test the argument would be that they probably wouldn’t be citizens. That’s not who we are and not what we’re about.

CONNELL: OK, Tony Burke has changed his argument since ’06, seemingly. Where just out of time, would you be happy with a slightly stricter one just not this far, is that what you are saying.

 HAMMOND: This is snobbery, this is elitism.

CONNELL: Would you be happy with a harder test but not this hard, is that what you are saying?

HAMMOND: We deal with legislation on its merits, this legislation has no merit.

CONNELL: Is that yes or no to stricter?

HAMMOND: We deal with legislation as it comes in and we think conversational English that is currently required is the way to go.  

CONNELL: It’s OK as it is?

 HAMMOND: This is not what being an Australian is all about.

 CONNELL: Labor frontbencher Tim Hammond thanks for your time today.

 HAMMOND: Great to be with you Tom.