SUBJECT/S: Flammable Cladding Ban, Liddell and Australia’s Energy Future  


LAURA JAYES: Joining me now is Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs Tim Hammond and Labor Member for Perth. Tim, thank so much for your time. Why does this flammable cladding need to be banned? Can’t there just be regulations around it?

SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSUMER AFFAIRS TIM HAMMOND: Laura, the reason it needs to be banned is because, quite frankly, we know of the risk. There is knowledge about the risk that can come from the polyethylene panels and we also know of the magnitude of the risk as to what could possibly go wrong. One life lost as a result of an unnecessary fire because of these panels is one life too many.

What we know from across the country and across the world now is there are significant fires as a result of these panels, which claim lives. We can take a stop to it, the Committee has recommend we stop it, we just need to front up to the issue.  

JAYES: Why do you need to ban the importation of it, why can’t you just ban it being used on building? It has been pointed out by some Government members that in fact the same kind of material is used in signage in small spaces. Is that fair enough?

HAMMOND: No it’s not. We already have a tragic past in relation to this, it comes from an area I know very well because it used to be the work that I did before coming into Parliament; and that is in asbestos containing materials. What we know about asbestos, like these panels, is that they can be lethal if used in the wrong way.

The problem with simply just putting restrictions on the import is that once they’re here we don’t know what happens to them. We can’t necessarily control what happens when they’re on the ground.

The only effective way to minimise the risk of unnecessary harm or death here is a ban. We did it with asbestos but it took us way too long, it claimed way too many live and the knowledge was there decades and decades ago.    

JAYES: But isn’t this in building compliance standards at the moment that you couldn’t use, or that you could only use a certain amount of this material as a percentage in any new buildings. Could then some older building be forced to become complaint? Couldn’t you go down that path?

HAMMOND: It’s because of the magnitude of the risk, and more to the point, at what point is there no risk?

JAYES: And we didn’t know about this until Grenfell happened, is that right?

HAMMOND: The knowledge as to the risk of the product has been around for some time. It’s the reality of knowing that we are sitting on a ticking time-bomb. So it is not a situation where we can reduce the risk by reducing the amount that this product is being used. We know it’s flammable, we know it promotes fires. The only sensible measure here, which is recommended by the Committee, is a ban.

We just need to make sure that our Mums and Dads and our communities are safe.

JAYES: OK, let’s get on to energy, which hasn’t really been a topic in Question Time this week but certainly on the periphery it is…let me ask you; does Labor support the closure of coal fired power stations? 

HAMMOND: This debate, Laura, I just find so curious. Whenever I see both Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg stand up, it just reminds me of a dog hysterically chasing its own tail. The Government is just going around in circles in relation to the energy conversation and I actually reckon we have been pretty consistent on this all the way through, before the election and after… (Interrupted by journalist)

JAYES: You haven’t been particularly clear, does Labor support the closing coal fired power stations?

HAMMOND: I don’t agree, Labor has always supported managing a just transition to in relation to the energy conversation from coal, through gas, to renewables in a just and orderly fashion which protects jobs.

JAYES: I support that, and I’m sorry to interrupt here.

HAMMOND: Not at all.

JAYES: If we look at the transition, let’s use the Liddell coal fired power station for example; that is due to be decommissioned in 2022 but it being removed from the market will leave a gap in the market when it comes to base load power. So, what is Labor’s strategy here? Is it extending the life, at least as a back-up?

HAMMOND: Labor’s position has always been pretty clear and Liddell is a good example. The exit point on Liddell at 2022 is a commercial decision, that’s a 50 year life. The issue in terms of managing gaps in the energy market and gaps in the energy sector is to put into place an effective and stable mechanism for managing the energy conversation which is a clean energy target.

JAYES: But it is not clear what Labor’s plan is to get electricity prices down.

HAMMOND: I don’t agree, I think we’ve been really clear, we’ve been prepared to comprise in terms of getting electricity prices down, create stability in the energy market, a clean energy target, we are ready to talk. We sit ready, willing and able.

JAYES: But not on coal, just to be clear?

HAMMOND: We are always up for a conversation on coal because it just comes back to a sensible, practical and just transition. I think it is irresponsible to have a hard and fast rule on any particular energy source because these are all going to be determined by the facts and the circumstances of the particular energy sources.

Liddell is a really good example. We are dealing with a closure in 2022 that is fundamentally a commercial decision, not a government decision. It’s about creating a stable energy environment - that comes back to clean energy target and I reckon we’ve been pretty good on it. 

JAYES: Alright Tim Hammond, We’ll have to leave it there, perhaps we’ll have some question on energy at Question Time today.

HAMMOND: Any time, happy to answer them here or there.



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