SUBJECTS: Malcolm Turnbull’s meltdown, Western Australian Election, Cory Bernardi, Renewable Energy, South Australian Energy Grid, Pocket squares.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Labor frontbencher after a very short period of time in Parliament, making it very hard for anyone else from the great state of Western Australia in the Labor Party to move on to the front bench over the course of the next ten years or so.

TIM HAMMOND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSUMER AFFAIRS: Well good afternoon Peter and Kristina, live from Canberra, and without a pocket square I'm afraid and certainly not one who has come from the Cleo finalists of the Bachelor of the Year, I'll put that right out there straight away.

VAN ONSELEN: You don't wear pocket squares; I assumed that that's why we've got a tighter shot of you.

HAMMOND: I don't have one in the wardrobe I'm afraid, not one.

VAN ONSELEN: What about blue ties?

HAMMOND: I gave my maiden speech in a blue tie.

VAN ONSELEN: Was that in direct defiance of Julia Gillard, just to make a point?

HAMMOND: No I can't say I put that much thought into it, it was clean, it was neat and that was enough for me.

KRISTINA KENEALLY: What do you make of Rob Mitchell's comments there, I am not going to repeat them because I am a good Catholic girl that doesn't swear.

HAMMOND: One of the...there are a lot of great things about Rob, he's a great Labor man and I reckon from that grab you've probably realised that you'll never going to die wondering what Rob Mitchell thinks of a state of affairs, he certainly calls it likes he sees it.

KENEALLY: What do you expect out of Question Time today, because it seems like the Prime Minister is intent on continuing this attack on Bill Shorten as a parasite and a phony?

HAMMOND: Look, there's a couple of things about that, but I am up here on the second level and I reckon I can smell the liniment from here, it's a little bit like before a Grand Final as we all march back down to Question Time. Look, yesterday was interesting, there's no doubt about it. But it was interesting for a couple of reasons. I mean, from where I sat it looked more like someone giving a performance review rather than giving any great bold statement about where we are going as a country. There's absolutely no doubt, as you've seen from the commentary today, it was a performance for his back bench, who sure responded accordingly. It was kind of interesting in the context of what it didn't say, as has been mentioned; not much in there about families, not much in there about pensioners. Look it might have excited his base, sure, you get that. But I reckon that's about it. The other thing that people probably forget, I reckon, is that the Prime Minister talks a lot about his time as merchant banker and looking at other fellow billionaires in the eye, but what he doesn’t say is that was also a barrister back in the day, and that's where I've come from too. One of my favourite things about running a trial was when I knew my opponent was backed into the corner or getting a bit hot under the collar and I reckon we saw a bit of that yesterday. Like Sam Maiden said, there is no doubt around this place that the drums are beating for him and he knows it, and I reckon it’s come from sheer pressure; not from a place of any form of policy or nation building that's for sure. I reckon we will see more of that today quite frankly.

VAN ONSELEN: Tim Hammond you mention that like you, Malcolm Turnbull has a background as a barrister, one of the things that Bill Shorten has targeted is being someone who doesn't really stand for anything, because he just takes the argument of whomever his client is, that's a critique of you by mistake as well isn't it?

HAMMOND: Kind of. What you've then got to do is sort of have a look at the work we've been doing. I've been pretty lucky over the years: almost all of my work has been representing victims dying of asbestos disease. The work that I did as a lawyer and then when I went to the bar has always primarily been for injured or dying workers who can’t fight for themselves – you know against guys and corporates that Malcolm Turnbull used to represent. Companies like Hardies, companies like CSR. That's what I used to do every day of the week. So you know, there are barristers and there are barristers, let’s put it that way.

KENEALLY: You're the Shadow Minister Assisting for Resources, we had a breakout of arguments today about South Australian power, you know the gas wasn't turned on it was turned on, AEMO didn't supply the state. This is extraordinary politicisation of what really should be a fairly straight forward discussion of power supply in South Australia.

HAMMOND: Look I think what’s occurred in South Australia in the context of the unfortunate series of events, let’s face it, for families in South Australia who are sweltering under this heat, let’s just remember they’re the ones at the front and centre here. What you seen clearly seen is a breakdown in the context of what the Federal body ought to have done under the watch of Josh Frydenberg. I mean it’s as simple as responding to the need when it was ready to go and what I've seen and read all day today, Pelican Point was ready to go with a flick of the switch. It needed a Federal body to do it, they didn't do it. So I am not so sure it's back and forth. I think it’s a matter of isolating the cause, the cause has clearly been at a Federal level and there was a failure. I think the challenge here is to try and pick it up and make sure these poor unfortunate families aren't in the same position again.

VAN ONSELEN: But Tim Hammond, from your perspective, is Labor's 50% Renewable Energy Target, is that the pathway to cheaper energy prices and more energy security?

HAMMOND: It absolutely is in the context of managing a just transition. This is one of those arguments from where I see it that there is room in the tent for all forms of reliance upon fuel for energy, both renewable and non-renewable. It's all about trying to manage that just transition. It's where I think there is a really interesting conversation to be had around gas - certainly from a Western Australia point of view where we've got a terrific stream and a great setup in relation to gas infrastructure in WA. So it's just about managing that just transition.

VAN ONSELEN: Ok, let me get back to the Bill Shorten tirade that came from the Prime Minister. You've talked about why he's done it and a sop to the back bench and the rest of it, but is it actually factually wrong? I mean it’s true isn't it, he knows all these elite businessman in Melbourne, he's close to them, and he’s done all the things that Malcolm Turnbull was referring too? It's not fake news.

HAMMOND: What's really interesting about that is that it overlooks a fundamental point which is simply that Bill Shorten has been spending his entire working life, representing and sticking up for working men and women. He's got the track record that proves it. What you are really seeing here is a Prime Minister who reeks of desperation, I think. I mean you can't just simply exclude one section of the community in the context of working as the leader of a Trade Union; you've got to be able to deal with everyone. What's really interesting is how it's been put and that simply is as my great mate Ed Husic has put it, projected on the basis that someone like Bill Shorten should be made to use the tradesman’s entrance. Why should he be any different than Malcolm Turnbull in that respect when it comes to dealing with billionaires? It just shouldn't be the case. 

KENEALLY: Tim we know you have got to get to Question Time shortly, so let me ask you about the WA Election before we let you go; you're the Member for Perth, a Party Official. One Nation is going to play a big role in this election you'd have to think, what about the Bernardi split. Is that going to have played any part of the dynamic in this election?

HAMMOND: It's an interesting development over here, Kristina, but I am not sure it's going to wash that far west. I mean the thing about Cory is that, I think the comment's been made before, he's really well known around here, but he really does much of a profile west of Eucla, over the border from South Australia. I think what's going to be really interesting is the One Nation effect. I am really proud of what Mark McGowan has done, he's drawn a line in the sand to say we will not be doing a preference deal with them and he's determined to earn this election in his own right. Huge mountain to climb, ten percent and ten seats, but there is no doubt over there that the mood is for a big change. I reckon Mark is doing really well, that One Nation issue is a challenge, but I am pretty confident the Cory effect isn't going to go too far.

VAN ONSELEN: Let me ask you about the front page story in the Australian by Andrew Burrell, that it looks like the State Labor Party over there are planning to tie themselves to a fifty percent renewable target, same as what Federal Labor has in place. Does that turn the WA election on March 11 into a canary in the coal mine for whether or not the attacks on this issue from the Liberal side of the political divide will or won't work, because you can bet that that's what the Liberals will be doing at a state level, and it looks like to me at least a bit of a mirror image of what we might see play our Federally in the years ahead.

HAMMOND: Good question, but it's not the case at all. There are couple of things that have happened in the context of that article this morning. Firstly, Bill Johnston has made it very clear that there is no room or scope for setting into place any form of mechanism before the election. Mark McGowan made that very clear months ago, it's an entirely consistent approach from State Labor Party and they've both made it very clear, both before and after the front page first thing this morning that the plan for Western Australian Labor and the energy sector generally over there is to consult widely and thoroughly with industry should Labor be successful at the election going forward. When you burrow down and look at precisely the plan for Mark McGowan and WA Labor it is to proceed cautiously, thoroughly, sensibly and all to be done with proper consultation after the election. So for those reasons I don't think it will go too far.

KENEALLY: Alright Tim Hammond it's your first time on To the Point, we appreciate you coming on the program.

HAMMOND: Look I appreciate it, I might not have the same wit or impressive dad jokes as my close friend and neighbour Ed Husic. We are both bearded, that is an issue. I am not quite sure what that will mean in the context of the proposed Jackie Lambie regulations, we might need to consult with each other and will come back to you and let you know.

VAN ONSELEN: Quick prediction though, Tim Hammond, can Bill Shorten's personal numbers get any worse?

HAMMOND: Look, Bill is going beautifully, Bill is concentrating on the things that actually matter. 

VAN ONSELEN: Going beautifully? He’s got a minus 22 net satisfaction rating and he's trailing on the preferred PM to a Prime Minister who is not popular?

HAMMOND: Bill is constantly focused on what actually matters out there in the community Peter and that is making sure that families aren’t hurt by tax cuts, making sure that we protect Australian jobs and making sure that there is plenty of opportunity for families around the corner and at the next election. So that's what we are focused on and that's what he is focused on and I've got no doubt he's going to land it.