Chris Bowen on Climate Change

Chris Bowen became Labor's shadow minister for Climate Change and Energy in January 2020. 

Below are:

Chris' media release on being made shadow minister, January 28 2021
Interview with the Guardian's Katharine Murphy, January 30, 2021
Interview with Patricia Karvelas, RN Drive, February 4, 2021
Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News, January 31 2021
Interview with Norman Swan, RN Breakfast, January 29 2021
Address at the Launch of The Write Stuff, February 11, 2021
Renew Economy reports Chris Bowen's rejection of gas as a low emissions fuel, February 16, 2021

MEDIA RELEASE January 28 2021
Australia faces a choice.
As global markets shift away from carbon-intensive industries, we can stand by and allow Australian jobs and communities to be decimated.
Or we can embrace new industries and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the suburbs and regions – all while reducing emissions and improving energy affordability and reliability.
With more than two million Australians unemployed or underemployed, the choice is clear to me and I’m delighted to be appointed as the Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy.
In contrast, this hapless Government has offered 22 energy policies in eight years – wrecking business confidence and slashing jobs.
Scott Morrison and his embattled Energy Minister remain isolated on net zero by 2050 – from our major trading partners, our leading businesses, and even our Liberal states.
As we’ve seen again this week, the Coalition remains deeply divided on the science of climate change, let alone the path forward.
For more than two terms, my friend Mark Butler has held the Government to account for this pathetic record with his characteristic intellect and energy.
Mark literally wrote the book on climate policy in Australia and I look forward to his continued counsel in my new role.
I also thank the health sector for working so closely with me since 2019 and, most importantly, for its efforts to tackle COVID-19 and the many other health challenges we face.
I will continue to work with the sector on what the World Health Organisation has described as the defining health threat of the 21st Century – climate change.  
FEBRUARY 2, 2021

SUBJECTS: U.S. climate policy; coal mining; manufacturing and energy policy; net zero by 2050.

Chris Bowen thanks for coming on.

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MNISTER FOR HEALTH: Pleasure Leigh, good evening.

SALES: In the US, the new President Joe Biden has been honest with coal workers and said we're not going to forget you, but you know things are going to change. You can't transition to a low emissions economy and lie to people in the coal industry that there won't be job losses can you?

BOWEN: Absolutely Leigh, and my message to coal workers and to coal mining communities around Australia is that coal mining is good and noble work and our economy has in many senses been built on it. It has been dangerous and dirty work for many years. But the world is changing and we do need to be honest about that and regardless of what our domestic climate change policies are, while we will continue to export coal for many years, coal mining and coal mining communities will come under pressure. Now your choice is, do you have a government which shrugs his shoulders and says, let the market rip or do you have a government which says we will invest in communities, will invest in individuals, and help you through that change. Certainly the Labor Party is the party which believes in investing in communities and investing in people.

SALES: So, let's say people in coal mines in the Hunter Valley do lose their jobs, what kind of new jobs would you see them transitioning into? 

BOWEN: Well I see many 1000s of jobs being created by good climate change policy. Both directly in terms of renewable energy, and also in reinvigorating traditional manufacturing industries with energy certainty and energy policy certainty. Manufacturing, and traditional industries have been under huge pressure, I know this Leigh I represent the largest industrial estate in the southern hemisphere, in Smithfield-Wetherill Park. I live on the edge, I see this every day and good energy policy is good employment policy. We could create 1000s of jobs right across the country by getting emissions down, having a pro-investment pro-jobs climate change policy.

SALES: So manufacturing jobs, like what sort of manufacturing would you see happening somewhere like the Hunter?

BOWEN: Well when you get the policy settings right then the private sector can invest in all sorts of opportunities, in the Hunter, in Western Sydney in Western Melbourne, right across the country. That's the problem that has beset energy policy in Australia under this government. We've had 22 different energy policies, why would anybody invest in energy generation in Australia when you have no policy certainty and you have chop and change policies under the Liberal National Party government?

SALES: So I guess you know if I was sitting in the Hunter watching this tonight what I want to know is, you know, just in concrete terms like what sort of a job would I have when you say manufacturing? Do you mean I'd be working in a factory on an assembly line like what sort of jobs do you mean?

BOWEN: Well I mean jobs that will be created across the board Leigh with good energy policy, and they might be in renewable policy directly, and many of the jobs created in renewable policy actually are of a similar nature to more traditional energy jobs or in manufacturing across the board. I see climate change policy and energy policy as a remarkable opportunity to invest in communities to create good jobs, not just in regional areas but including in regional areas but across the suburbs and regions of Australia.

SALES: Before the last election Labor pledged a 45% cut to emissions by 2030, that's not your policy now. The planet hasn't changed, the challenge hasn't changed. What has changed now that that target seems too ambitious?

BOWEN: Well we haven't been in office Leigh, so we haven't been able to implement policies to get to that target. We've got a very clear commitment to net zero by 2050 – 

SALES: No but I just want to know what's changed, because your target’s not going to be the same that you took just a few years ago, and the challenge hasn't changed. I just want to know what's changed.

BOWEN: Well obviously Leigh I'm going through the process of consulting with experts in my early days as Shadow Minister for Climate Change. But if you come to office in 2022, you can't have exactly the same policies as if you came to office in 2016 or 2019.

SALES: Presumably you’d have to have more ambitious policies, given the problem’s getting – 

BOWEN: Presumably you’ve got to deal with the lost opportunities of three years of Liberal and National Party Government. We will have a very clear, scientific and evidence-based climate change policy,  but one which is also focused on economic security and investment and a pro-jobs policy.

SALES: The UK is committed to a 68 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. The US is going to be announcing its 2030 targets soon and that's expected to be between 30 to 40%. Should Labor's target be somewhere in that kind of range? That is a pretty big kind of range, but 30 is considered to be the lowest possible level.

BOWEN: You’ve just answered the question for me Leigh, it is a big range, and – 

SALES: But 30 is the lowest. 

BOWEN: Well, we've got a clear commitment to net zero by 2050. Obviously there's a roadmap to get there which is important, which we'll be outlining very clearly. The Government has said they'll release their 2035 target after the election, but we're going to take to the people a very clear policy based on science and evidence, which is not just about the medium term target. I understand the focus on that. But there's sort of a shorthand in the conversation that it’s just about the target - it's about the levers, about the mechanisms, about the policies to get there as well. And that's what I've been working on over the course of this week and I'll continue to work on and continue to consult with the experts on. And we'll have plenty of detailed announcements between now and the next election.

SALES: Labor’s had trouble getting its own party united on a policy in this area. If you can't persuade your own party on one direction, how will you be able to persuade the electorate?

BOWEN: Well I don't necessarily agree with that Leigh because everybody in the Labor Party accepts that climate change is real and we need a policy to deal with it, unlike the Liberal Party – 

SALES: Yeah but there's a lot of wiggle room after that. 

BOWEN: Within the Government of the day Leigh, you've got climate change deniers in their ranks. The Minister for Climate Change himself said that climate change was not necessarily based on facts not that long ago. In the Labor Party, sure we have a policy debate about mechanisms etcetera, but we are all 100 per cent committed to a climate change policy which deals with humankind causing climate change.

SALES: Does Anthony Albanese get to take Labor to the next election as Leader, no matter what?

BOWEN: Yes. 

SALES: Chris Bowen, thank you very much. 

BOWEN: Thank you Leigh.


SUBJECTS: U.S. climate policy; coal mining, net zero by 2050; Clean Energy Fund rules; Pfizer vaccine; hotel quarantine; vaccine rollout.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: I'm joined by Labor's new Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, Chris Bowen welcome back to the program.

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Thanks PK and full disclosure I'm hopeless at passwords too so don’t feel embarrassed about needing to get two new ones today.

KARVELAS: Hopefully no spies are listening going ah Chris Bowen.

BOWEN: They've all got different rules and some have to have numbers and hashtags.

KARVELAS: It's very stressful I’ll tell you. Now, Australia and the United States we know have a very deep relationship that involves cooperation on many issues. Do you really see climate change becoming a source of friction?

BOWEN: Well, I certainly hope not but the fact of the matter is that Australia is an outlier at the moment. We are one of the very few major developed countries not to have committed to zero net emissions by 2050. More than 120 countries around the world have, and many many have legislated it as a target for their countries, and we are one of the very, very few that hasn't and I do think, unless that changes, it will provide ongoing tension, not only with the United States but with our friends and partners around the world.

KARVELAS: The Prime Minister indicated earlier this week he's open to the zero net emissions by 2050 target, do you believe the government will ultimately adopt it?

BOWEN: Well look it’s a pretty, frankly, weak crab walking exercise by Scott Morrison, who clearly is trying to walk the line between what Australia should do, what our obligations are, what is good policy for creation of jobs and investment, and what he's allowed to do by the climate change deniers in his political coalition in the Liberal and National Party. There are a number of people who just simply don't accept the science. So, it is a complicated task for him but nevertheless, leadership would involve a clear commitment, a very strong commitment to net zero by 2050 and nothing short of that is acceptable for the Prime Minister.

KARVELAS: Climate change is a politically difficult issue in Australia. Do you think this shift in the US will help to generate momentum for change here?

BOWEN: Well, it's a factor, it's a factor. Of course we will develop, you know we should as a sovereign nation have our own policies but of course, Joe Biden has a very strong climate change policy himself as President. and of course there will be international ramifications of that, but his focus was on job creation, which is exactly the same focus that we are bringing to the task. Good climate change policy is good jobs and investment policy and a key tactic, a central tactic of the Liberal National Party playbook for more than a decade has been to pretend that good climate change policy destroys jobs, it's just not true. And of course one of my key focuses will be to argue against that contention and to very strongly put that well designed will calibrated climate change policy is good for jobs and investment.

KARVELAS: Why is it that Labor hasn't had a well-articulated message for people who rely on coal for their livelihoods, about their future and where their next job will come from?

BOWEN: Oh look I don't accept the premise of your question but let me make it very clear, coal mining is good and noble work, and coal mining communities are good communities. And the Australian economy has very much been built on the back of that work by coal miners which for many decades has been in many instances dirty and dangerous and difficult, but it is changing. Regardless of our domestic climate change policies coal mining communities will come under pressure. Whether it is through automation and fewer and fewer people employed in mines, whether it's the changing the Chinese economy, or whether it's 70% of our trading partners having net zero emissions by 2050 targets. These are all going to affect the coal market and our coal mining communities. Now, we need a government an alternative government who are prepared to be honest about that. We certainly are. And then the choice is, do you want a government which invests in coal mining communities and in coal miners and helps them through that change or a government which ignores that it’s happening, or shrugs their shoulders and says let the market rip?

KARVELAS: So what are you going to tell voters, how long will coal be in our system?

BOWEN: Well, coal exports will continue for many years but they will come under pressure and coal mining communities will come under pressure as I said regardless of what 

KARVELAS: So when you say many years, quantify that for me. 

BOWEN: Well many years Patricia.

KARVELAS: Many years could mean five it could mean 20 it could mean 30 what are you referring to?

BOWEN: Well I believe that will occur for much more than five years, for many years to the future. Now, how long, how long that is, we will see, but they will continue 

KARVELAS: But you’re going to have to articulate for how long that's central to the debate,

BOWEN: Well the world market will determine that not me or not, government policy the world market 

KARVELAS: But government policy settings have a huge impact on that.

BOWEN: Well with respect Patricia, Australian domestic government policy settings don’t really determine how long our coal exports will continue, the rest of the world, our trading partners, determine that. Now, I think what coal mining communities deserve is honesty about that from their elected leaders, that's what I'm giving you today that honesty to say, look, coal mining and coal mining communities will come under pressure. The choice is, do we have a government which has a plan to deal with that, or a government that pretends it doesn't happen? Certainly, the Labor Party's approach is a plan to help coal mining communities deal with that change.

KARVELAS: If you're just tuning in this is RN Drive and my guest is Chris Bowen he's the Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, 0418 226 576 is our text line. I wonder what you make of this, this ongoing climate debate and the impact that the US president will be having on our own domestic debate. Labor's opposing plan changes to Clean Energy Fund rules aimed at fuelling investment in gas power plants, do you see much scope to work with the government on this issue?

BOWEN: Well I hope so. We'll be moving amendments and I hope the government will accept those amendments and then we can pass the legislation. I don't believe that the legislation as it’s currently crafted is fit for purpose and it does need to be changed. I’m very comfortable with that decision and we'll be moving those amendments as you'd expect. As the Opposition, seeking their agreement through both Houses of Parliament and if they are agreed then very happily vote for the legislation, but the amendments would need to be agreed, and it's up to the government whether they're prepared to work with us on that point.

KARVELAS: I want to change the topic if I can, and it was actually your portfolio pretty recently so you're going to be able to handle the questions. Do you welcome the additional 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine the government says it's secured?

BOWEN: Of course, of course I do, and of course we do. 10 million in extra doses is a good step, and we've been pointing this out, you know, I'm sure I've argued the same on your show previously Patricia that we did need more doses. 10 million is not enough, considering their two dose vaccines so therefore 10 million doses, is enough for 5 million Australians. We did point out that we did need more, yes AstraZeneca we also have a deal with them. But we've pointed out consistently for many months that we needed more deals to ensure that Australians had access to the vaccine, and to the best possible vaccines, and that we needed more than simply a deal which provided access to 10 million doses so I welcome the additional doses.

KARVELAS: We know that the, the amount overall will be 150 million doses. Does that kind of make us a regional hub?

BOWEN: Well, we certainly have a role to play in our region and that's a point of bipartisan agreement. We've supported the government's efforts through the COVAX facility, we’ve supported the government's efforts in the last budget to provide an allocation for the Pacific. It's appropriate that we play a leadership role in the Pacific and I don't think you'll find much points of partisan difference on that on that element.

KARVELAS: Should the government be trying to bring forward its vaccination timetable or should we be prioritising poorer countries once we've vaccinated vulnerable groups here?

BOWEN: As I said, we have a role to play with less developed countries in our region, but of course, we have to ensure that the vaccine is rolled out across the country. Scott Morrison said we were first in the queue, it wasn't true then and it's not true now, and quite self-evidently now not first in the queue as millions of  vaccines have occurred around the world. Our position has been very clear. The TGA should be given the chance to do its job and approve the vaccine and take as long as it needs. That's certainly happened with our full support, Greg Hunt is not telling the truth when he says we called for the TGA to somehow cut corners, we very explicitly didn't. We said once the TGA has done its job, the vaccine should be rolled out expeditiously and simply, the government has been engaging in the opposite, in operation definitely not warp speed, because the rollout plans have been very slow.

KARVELAS: What do you make of the COVID breach in hotel quarantine for the Australian Open or the leakage, are events like this simply too risky?

BOWEN: Well, what I make of it is that quarantine is a federal government responsibility. And there has been very, very little federal government involvement on the issue of quarantine. I mean, this is black and white. Some areas are grey, you know, some areas are shared responsibility and it's not clear whether it's a state or federal responsibility, this isn't one of them. Quarantine is a Commonwealth responsibility under the Constitution and Scott Morrison has been AWOL when it comes to that responsibility. He has the Jane Halton review sitting on his desk, he's had it for months. It lies, unimplemented and unloved and if the federal government was fair dinkum they’d be saying well we’re seeing breaches of quarantine or leaks from quarantine more accurately from four separate jurisdictions, maybe five separate jurisdictions now across the country. They happen because it's a high risk environment, but the states are doing their best to manage that risk environment, with no or little support from the federal government.

KARVELAS: Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

BOWEN: Always a pleasure PK.


SUBJECTS: New climate change and energy role; net zero by 2050; climate change and jobs in traditional industries; Labor reshuffle.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Does it seem odd that Labor is moving to more centrists like yourself in climate change just at the very time that you see the United States, the UK and others ramping up their climate ambition?

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Morning KG. Well this was a very stock standard reshuffle by any stretch of the imagination. Scott Morrison did a reshuffle at the end of last year, Anthony Albanese done his this year. In relation to my position and climate change, Mark Butler, having held the role for the best part of eight years himself reached a view that it was time for a new challenge for him, and we had some very mutually respectful conversations between Mark, Anthony and I about a change of roles and I was more than happy to take this role on. Now in relation to climate change our commitment is very clear. We are committed to bringing Australia in line with the other 120 countries around the world committed to net zero emissions by 2050. Under Scott Morrison's leadership Australia is an outlier, a laggard. We will have a strong, evidence-based scientifically focused and economically focused, climate change policy at the next election, which I'm very much looking forward to developing with the team.

HOST: You say you're very clear, let's be clear then, what is the mid-term target, 2030 or 2035?

BOWEN: Well, let's just talk about that for a minute. Our commitment to net zero by 2050 is very very clear, and of course, I'll be consulting about the pathway to that target. We need to meet the target but targets are easier said than met and we'll be developing the policies to get there, as opposed to the government, which has said we'll get back to you after the election about our 2035 target. It's treating the Australian people with contempt and won't outline the pathway towards zero. They won't get there by 2050. It was revealed during the week that don't have any modelling as to how they'll get there, no timetable to get there. I'll take a very different approach because I believe, getting climate change and energy policy right is the key. One of the very key areas to restoring traditional industries, to getting investment in manufacturing right across the board, to getting jobs going and if we get it wrong, hundreds of 1000s of jobs will be destroyed under current policy settings but if we get it right, we can unleash investment, not only in energy generation, but in the industries and sectors which so very much rely on it.

HOST: Anthony Albanese says he's not going to lead a party that's not committed to climate change action. Do you see this as a priority then for yourself, to give clarity on what that mid-term target is? Otherwise, it's very far off into the never never, we're talking 2050 - you need a bit more clarity in the foreseeable future, don't you?

BOWEN: Well of course we need to and will outline our pathway to net zero by 2050 but targets are just part of that conversation Kieran. I mean I think it's easy to get caught up in the, you know, targets good or bad conversation, you need to consider the policy levers, the mechanisms, a whole range of things need to go behind that and that's the work that I've already started and will continue to do. I've been in job a couple of days, you'd understand I've got a lot more consultation to do about that. But we will have, as I've said, consistently since Thursday, a very strong climate change policy. One based on a sensible understanding of the science, and one focused on the economic opportunities of getting this right?

HOST: Joel Fitzgibbon says you should just adopt the government's target for 2030. Wouldn't that make the politics easier?

BOWEN: Well I take a different view for a couple of reasons. Firstly I think if you are going to get net zero by 2050 you have to outline a very clear plan to get there, and the government's not doing that they don't they don't believe in net zero by 2050 and they have no plan to get there, and that's the first point. We need to have our policy based on the science and the evidence. In relation to the politics, look, let's just be frank, Labor's been elected from opposition to government three times since World War Two. It's a hard thing to do, and when we've done it before, we've given people a compelling reason to vote Labor. A simple policy agenda, but a compelling one. Now a compelling reason to vote Labor is not hey vote for us because we're the same as the other guys but we're a bit nicer. That's not a compelling reason to vote Labor. The Australian people I think want an alternative, not an echo. They want a remedy, not a replica, and under Anthony's leadership, that's exactly what we’ll provide.

HOST: You suffered a 7% swing there in your home seat, the safer western Sydney seat that you hold. In your Jack Ferguson lecture, memorial lecture late last year you made a pitch for Labor to be targeting aspirational Australians in the suburbs where you, where I grew up. Does that include, does that include a strong response on climate change? I mean, how serious do your voters take this issue. Is it a big concern for them?

BOWEN: Of course it does Kieran and you and I did grow up, not far from each other here and I me in Smithfield you were in Guilford around the corner. But you understand that the suburbs are complicated places and the speech I made last year was about trying to get a bigger focus on some of the issues facing the suburbs. I understand the focus on the politics but I was talking about some of the great policy challenges in the suburbs including casualisation for example which Tony Burke's been doing great work on which we'll hear more about. But of course people in the suburbs are concerned about climate change, but they want to see the policy settings right. Just over my shoulder Kieran is the biggest industrial estate in the southern hemisphere the Smithfield-Wetherill Park industrial estate. We live this every day. We live the ramifications of getting the climate and energy policy wrong. We live the drift of eight years of Liberal government with 22 energy policies and the lack of certainty, the lack of private sector investment in energy. The lack of commitment to replacing the energy sources that need to be replaced as they reach the end of their natural life and all the uncertainty that creates for investment in manufacturing. 

I believe we can and will be a country which makes things, but the key, the first step is to get energy policy and climate policy right. Now that's not avoiding a climate change policy, it's recognizing that getting it right is the key. The Australian people I think understand that, and that's what Labor has done best for generations, managing economic transition. That's what Hawke and Keating did when they manage the transition in our economy as our national income was declining, but they invested in people and they invested in industries. They ensured the policy certainty.

HOST: A couple of quick ones to wrap up. Is this a chance for you to reboot your own political trajectory. If you can navigate this policy for Labor given the last election the policies which you were an architect of in large part, were rejected by the people, by voters?

BOWEN: I see this is a great policy challenge and that's what I got into politics to do, is to reform and to be involved in the discussions which are important to our country, the levers on the economic change for our country, that's the way I see the job. I’ll leave you commentators to do the rest Kieran, I'm focused on the job that Anthony's given me, which is to give, which is to give the Labor Party a strong climate policy, one which wins the economic argument to destroy the fallacy, the Liberal National Party fallacy that somehow action on climate change is bad for jobs when in fact, the opposite is true.

HOST: And finally, was it smart for Anthony Albanese to poke some of his rivals in the eye with Tanya Plibersek and Jim Chalmers losing some responsibilities in the reshuffle?

BOWEN: I don't accept the premise of your question, as I said at the outset, reshuffles happen. They're a regular part of Australian political life. Certainly, from my point of view I had very constructive mutually respectful conversations with Albo about the options in relation to myself. I for one made it clear to him while I was happy to continue in health I was also happy to take on a new challenge, if that's what he preferred for the sake of the team the good of the team. Mark and I had discussed it and he had indicated to me he thought he was ready for a new challenge. So, the reshuffle from my point of view was handled professionally with respect that you would expect from a leader of Anthony's calibre.

HOST: Chris Bowen, appreciate your time. Talk to you soon,

BOWEN: Great to talk to KG.


SUBJECTS: Labor Shadow Ministry reshuffle; climate change and energy; Labor leadership.

The Opposition Labor Party's front bench looks a lot different this morning after a major reshuffle aimed at calming internal tensions. The key issue driving division is the party's stance on climate change. Mark Butler held the portfolio for seven years he's now been replaced by Chris Bowen and Anthony Albanese insists the reshuffle won't lead to a softer position on climate change. (audio file) ‘Chris Bowen has a very strong position on climate change. I have a strong position on climate change. There is no way that a Labor government that I lead won't take action on climate change. Zero possibility.’ Labor leader, Anthony Albanese. Chris Bowen joins us now welcome back to RN Breakfast.

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Good morning Norman. Good to be back in a new capacity. 

SWAN: Yes, right, we’ll return a little bit later to your old capacity but let's stick with your new one. This is a controversial portfolio within Labor, a superficial look at why this has happened is to please Joel Fitzgibbon. 

BOWEN: No, not at all. Mark Butler has been an excellent Climate Change Shadow Minister but he himself reached the conclusion that after a better part of eight years, it was time to him for him to meet some new challenges, and time for a fresh set of eyes. Certainly I indicated to Albo that while I was also happy to continue in health, I'd also be happy to take on this challenge and that's as it's eventuated. Now I believe climate change is the key economic challenge for the nation, and of course for the world. That's what Labor does best, managing economic transitions. That's what Hawke and Keating did, managing the transition as our national income was sliding and economic reform was needed, but Labor also understands we invest in people as we go. Climate change policy and energy policy is the key to getting manufacturing going across our suburbs and regions, building jobs, creating jobs, and if we get it wrong, jobs will be destroyed Norman, jobs will be destroyed. All the economic evidence shows that. That net zero by 2050 will create 1000s of jobs, but if we have continued inaction on climate change jobs will be destroyed. So that is the argument, I'll be taking up to the government every single day.

SWAN: So why did Joel Fitzgibbon accuse Mark Butler yesterday of being overly ambitious on climate change since he was aiming for that target too? How will you be different, to your predecessor?

BOWEN: There was nothing really different in what Joel said yesterday. He's been for 18 months arguing, in effect, that we should have the same policy as the government. Joel is entitled to that position, I disagree. I think that the government's approach is one which is destroying jobs, avoiding the opportunity to create jobs for our kids, good jobs in new industries in growing industries and to ensure a sustainable and clear energy supply for manufacturing and traditional industries. That is the key to climate change and energy policy, that's what I'll be focusing on like a laser, and I'll be holding the government to account. Now, I heard Susan Ley in the interview just before me you know complain about our lack of policy. I mean the government’s policy, Angus Taylor says they’ll have a 2035 target after the next election, they won't tell us what it is. So it's appropriate to ask us about our policies and I understand the political tactic which Susan Ley and her colleagues will engage in, but if the government of the day, won't come up with a climate change target for 2035 until after the election, I'll be holding them to account for that as well. I'll be holding them to account for Australia being a pariah in not having a target of net zero by 2050. 120 countries around the world do. It's legislated in the United Kingdom, France, Germany in New Zealand for example, but this government thinks they don't need to do that.

SWAN: You haven't given an interim target either and scientists this week came out and said that if you don't have a target of 50% reduction in other words, double the reduction by 2030 based on the 2005 levels, you're never going to reach the two degree limit. We're already heading towards that, and Labor resolutely refuses to commit to a medium term target.

BOWEN: Well hang on a second Norman, we've made it clear that our policy will be out there for all to see well before the next election. That's something I'm committed to you as you'll understand I've been in the job for less than a full day I've got a range of consultations to embark on with scientists.

SWAN: So you will have a medium term target?

BOWEN: We will have Norman, an evidence based scientifically focused and economically focused climate change policy at the next election. That's my commitment. It will be based on the science, the evidence and will be focused on creating good jobs for our kids and across the suburbs and regions of Australia which is what climate change and energy policy is all about. I mean we've had 22 energy policies under this government, there's been a crisis of uncertainty which has driven down investment, which has seen a lack of investment in all forms of energy, all forms of energy, which is endangering our manufacturing capacity, and certainly stymying the opportunity to revolutionise manufacturing and traditional industries across our suburbs and regions on their watch.

SWAN: The federal government will try to wedge you. So for example, are you going to support a government funded gas-fired power station in the Hunter Valley? 

BOWEN: Well this debate is around because private sector investment in energy generation has plummeted because the lack of policy certainty has seen no private investment coming forward and hence we have the National Party the good old agrarian socialists, promising government intervention against the wishes of the South Wales Liberal Government against the wishes apparently of the urban based Liberal MP’ so we see massive splits on that side of the fence. Now it's up to the government to provide the investment framework, so that we see private investment coming forward in all forms of energy generation. At the moment we're seeing a drought, this discussion is only necessary because of a government induced drought in energy generation investment. 

SWAN: So do you commit then to opposing a government funded gas-fired power station?

BOWEN: Well we’re yet to see any particular concrete proposals. We’ve seen thought bubbles from the National Party. I'll be focused on generating private sector investment. I'm not the sort of, you know the National Party seems to think that investment in their pet projects by tax payers money is a good thing, I want to see a proper energy regulatory framework with certainty to generate much more investment in renewable energy to give traditional industries the certainty of their energy supply to ensure manufacturing can be revitalised in Australia. This is possible, it is possible in Australia to revitalise our traditional industries to create hundreds of 1000s of jobs and the alternative as Deloitte has pointed out is to see in coming decades a jobs trap as bad as has been generated by the COVID pandemic every single year.

SWAN: So how do you argue, how do you keep the balance between say Central Queensland coal workers and inner-city based voters that will vote in seats like yours Anthony Albanese’s, Tanya Plibersek’s. How do you keep that balance when the, the jobs argument can be quite abstract?

BOWEN: It’s been a while since my electorate has been described as inner-city Norman. 

SWAN: Well you know what I mean?

BOWEN: Well yeah where I live, where I speak to you today, an hour from the city. But look, I believe in a compact, a compact between the government of Australia and the people of Australia. It involves not shirking the big issues, and the biggest issue of all is climate change, challenging those issues, rising to the challenge of confronting the policies that are necessary for the country, but investing in people as we go and ensuring no one is left behind. Whether they be a coal miner in Queensland or a traditional manufacturing worker in my electorate here in Smithfield in Western Sydney. I represent the biggest industrial estate in the southern hemisphere, I live on the edge of it. I live this every day, and I see factories closing. I see the lack of energy policy certainty, having a real impact for people in my community, every single day. That needs to be fixed as an urgent national priority.

SWAN: Will Anthony Albanese take Labor to the next election?

BOWEN: Yes, and I'm looking forward to being Minister for Climate Change in his government.

SWAN: And if there were to be a vacancy in leadership would you go for it?

BOWEN: There won’t be one I don’t envisage.

SWAN: But if there were?

BOWEN: Well I want to be Climate Change Minister, Norman.

SWAN: Okay, so.

BOWEN: There won't be a vacancy in the leadership. Anthony's made clear he's taking the party to the next election and I expect he will.

SWAN: Chris Bowen thank you for joining us.

BOWEN: Always a pleasure.

FEBRUARY 11, 2021


We gather on Gadigal land to launch a book about the great challenges we face.  
I know this book has been seen to be about the challenges Labor faces.  But it is actually a book about the challenges Australia faces – and Labor’s role in tackling them.
And no challenge is more important than ending the scourge of disadvantage for our First Nations.
As Selena Uibo puts it movingly in her chapter on the First Nations people: “I’ve watched the families be torn apart by addiction, and I’ve experienced the effects of generational trauma, and violence in our communities.  I’ve watched immense potential go to waste because of circumstance and a lack of opportunity”.
What Selena and all of our Indigenous brothers and sisters experience has to end, and it has to be our urgent national priority to end it.
I want to thank Misha and Nick for conceiving the idea of “The Write Stuff”, bringing it to fruition and for giving me the honour of conducting the Sydney launch.
When I was a (very nerdy) lad, growing up in the 1980s, I’d devour the annual edition of “Labor Essays”, which were designed to provide ideas for the next Labor Government.
They made a come back in the late 1990s with the same ambition.
I see The Write Stuff in that tradition.
There are plenty of big names in there.  My parliamentary colleagues making important contributions.
But I want to give a particular shout-out to those contributions from outside Parliament. 
Those of us inside the House have plenty of opportunities to put our ideas out there.  But we need the ideas and feedback from the brilliant minds outside the parliamentary party. 
I’ve already mentioned Selena’s excellent chapter.  There’s also Robbie Dalton, Sam Crosby, Jenny Hill, Diana Asmar, Josh Peak, Michael Easson and the two editors. 
I know the commentary around politics immediately gravitates to personalities.
But this is a book about ideas.  And ideas are what will win us elections.
We need to be frank.  We need ideas.
Labor has failed to win a majority of seats in eight of the last nine federal elections.
Our primary vote has been in decline since 1993, with increases in our primary vote in 2007 and 2016 being the only exceptions.
But yet, our party has done so much better than so many of our sister parties around the world.
The aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis was meant to be the social democratic moment, when people rebelled against the laissez-faire agenda which facilitated financial and social destruction across the globe.
Instead it became the right-wing populist moment, as conservatives across the globe capitalised on the anger that so many working people felt.
Many of our sister parties around the world have fared even worse than us.  Several have ceased to exist.  There is even a term for this phenomenon: Pasokification, which refers to the once dominant left of centre party of Greece, which has now ceased to exist, as its traditional support base collapsed.
Key to the tactics of the right wing populists has been the weaponisation of climate change in the politics of fear and loathing to convince people in traditional industries that sensible action on climate change is a threat to their jobs and wages.  And to their kids.  And to the vibrancy of their suburbs and regions.
Now, conservatives don’t care about jobs when they’re ripping up legislative protections for workers, or ending wage subsidies prematurely, or standing by while casualisation worsens wages and conditions.
But since John Howard, they’ve feigned an interest in jobs when it comes to climate change.
And they’ve sought to perpetuate a massive myth.
That climate action costs jobs.
That the jobs of today will be here tomorrow if we can just deny or ignore the climate science.
When Anthony and I first discussed me switching to Climate Change and Energy, I told him I would embrace the task with alacrity.
Because it is the key economic challenge of our time and because it is so important to our future.
My remarks tonight are necessarily brief, but given it is early in my tenure in the portfolio, and given it is central to our task, I’m going to concentrate my remarks on climate change tonight.
As progressives around the world have emphasised moral and environmental imperatives for climate action, conservatives have talked about jobs.
We need to talk about both.
But more than talk about jobs, we also need to substantively tackle the issue of job creation in communities concerned about their future in a decarbonised world.
The moral case for action on climate change is strong.  But it’s not enough to win the argument.
Climate change is an existential threat.
But if you think you might lose your job, that’s a more direct existential threat.
And so, we must tackle and win the economic argument, head-on.
I’m not just talking about communications and framing, I’m talking about writing our climate change and industry and regional development policies to ensure a vibrant economic future for our suburbs and regions.
The fact is that acting on climate change is a moral duty.
But it is also an enormous economic opportunity.
We should not moralise to workers in traditional industries that they somehow carry a higher moral burden than the rest of us.
In fact, the moral duty is on us, the policy leaders to make sure that good climate change policy is good jobs policy: especially for the regions and suburbs which have relied on traditional industries.
The right policy settings can unquestionably create jobs in the suburbs and regions.
We also are obliged to be completely honest with people who are concerned about the economic impact of climate change policy.
The ramifications of ignoring the need for good climate change policy are much worse, not only for the economy generally, but for them.
The original Bowens were coal miners.  They came from South Wales to North Queensland in 1880 to mine copper, gold and silver at Mount Morgan.
Mount Morgan was once one of the most thriving mining communities in the world.
The mine closed in 1981.  I’ve visited Mount Morgan a couple of times in recent years.  I’ve paid my respects at the grave of my Great Great Grandfather Daniel Bowen and thanked him for making the hard journey.
But I’ve had the opportunity to observe what can happen when there is no plan for a community to assist them with change.
Mount Morgan remains a beautiful village with good people.  But is not replete with economic opportunities for its young people.
Coal mining is good and noble work.  It should be honoured, not demonised. 
For many decades, it has been dangerous, difficult and dirty.
Our economy has in many ways been built on the back of it. 
But we owe coal miners and coal mining communities more than our respect. 
We owe them honesty.
Regardless of Australia’s domestic climate change policies, coal mining and coal mining communities are going to come under pressure.
A Labor government will not leave them behind.
Almost 80 per cent of Australia’s thermal coal exports go to Japan, China and South Korea.
But all three of those countries have committed to net zero emissions by mid-century.
And so Australia faces a choice.
We can allow the decline of our jobs and our industries to be dictated by boardrooms in Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul.
Or we can pull our heads out of the sand, face up to global realities, and create new jobs – all while making energy cheaper and more reliable.
Deloitte estimates that inaction on climate change will cost Australia almost a million jobs over coming decades.
In contrast, if we lead the shift to net zero, then we can not only protect existing workers, but create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
The Deputy Prime Minister said just this week “I’m certainly not worried about what might happen in 30 years’ time”.
I found that statement gob-smacking.
Worrying about what might happen in 30 years’ time is what leadership is all about!
The authors of the chapters in this book certainly know we need to be worrying about leaving a better Australia for those inhabiting it in thirty years’ time.
Yes, I’m worried about what will happen to the planet in thirty years without real action on climate change.
I’m worried about how many Australians, and how many people around the world, will die in natural disasters, heat waves and other health impacts of climate change.
But I’m also worried about what the employment prospects for people in our suburbs and regions will look like if  the nation continues to  neglect the economic transformation that is good climate change policy.
That’s why our policies in this space can build on the policies we’ve already announced, including our new Secure Australian Jobs Plan, our plan for a Future Made in Australia, and on power transmission, our plan to Rewire the Nation.
Getting energy and climate change policy right is the essential first step to ensuring we are a country that makes things, with a vibrant, modern manufacturing sector.
Our message needs to be, and will be, a positive one.  One of hope and optimism.
Just as Hawke and Keating took the Australian people with them on the massive economic transformation that was dealing with our declining national income, so we can do again with the challenge of our time: climate change.
But we can only do so from Government.
I’ll conclude by saying this.
I know it’s fashionable for commentators to posit the view that Labor can’t win the next election.
Many of the same people argued we couldn’t lose the last one.
But I disagree.
Every election is winnable.
Anthony leads a good team, he leads it well, and he and we can form the next Government.
Tackling the big issues. 
Promoting the big ideas.
And I look forward to discussing those ideas with you further tonight.

Renew Economy reports Chris Bowen's rejection of gas as a low emissions fuel, February 16, 2021

get updates