24 February 2020

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks for coming, everyone. I'll deal with two matters before taking questions today.

Firstly, obviously there's the ongoing management of the Coronavirus, which the Labor Party has been engaging very constructively with the Government, at 21 cases in Australia and six now from the Diamond Princess.

Of course, we have supported every measure that's been put in place by the Government it's appropriate that the Government and Opposition are working carefully and closely together as such, a medical issue is managed. Of course, we're seeing calls for people in Wuhan for another evacuation flight, we would hope and expect the Government will engage constructively with those calls.

We understand the complexity of the arrangements and we pay tribute to the work that's been put in place by the DFAT officials. We understand that the families left in Wuhan will be facing a number of different complexities. Some will have chosen not to board earlier flight others would have faced complexity in boarding. Again, without diminishing, the complexity the difficulty of the situation we hope and expect, and trust the Government will engage with those left in Wuhan with a view to acting appropriately as my colleague Penny Wong has said today, and she has previously written to Marise Payne along those lines.

The second issue that I'll address today is of course, the important announcement made yesterday by Anthony Albanese.

Anthony Albanese showing leadership, showing that he's prepared to make tough decisions in the national interest.

What we get from the Government is confusion, chaos, and the old fashioned fear campaign and advertising campaign from Scotty from Marketing. As Anthony Albanese was outlining that important step, the zero emissions by 2050 target yesterday, Scott Morrison was getting the Liberal Party to arrange silly memes for social media.

That's not leadership.

Now the Government has to answer some questions. Why do they think Australia should stand against 73 other countries including countries under conservative leadership, like United Kingdom and Germany, which have the same target?

Why should the Australian Government not have the same targets every single state and territory, including Liberal and National Party led state and territories? Why should Australia stand against the likes of our own businesses led by the BCA and BHP and Santos who have all called for such a target.

Now, the Government's got one line, what's the cost?

Well, we know that this will unleash billions of dollars worth of investment. We know that wages will be higher, investment will be higher, growth will be higher, with this target in place now, so that our economy can start that important transition. The Government says they are now toying with a technology target. The same mob who railed against electric vehicles less than 12 months ago who said they would "end the weekend", and that they would be a "war on tradies". Scott Morrison and his alleged team have no credibility when it comes climate and Australians know that.

We know that the cost of not acting is huge.

And we know that the economic benefit of appropriate action is real. With wages higher, growth higher and investment higher. CSIRO says so. The New South Wales Government and other conservative governments have relied correctly on that CSIRO modelling. We understand the modelling. We understand the science. We understand the economic impact, we're prepared to lead. Scott Morrison is not prepared to lead. He leads a coalition of climate change deniers and gutless wimps when it comes to climate change - those who believe in it, but arent prepared to act on it.

Well, Anthony Albanese leads a team that is prepared to act.

Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: On the issue of the coronavirus, is there a compelling argument to relax the travel ban for students if they self isolate?

BOWEN: Look, I think the measures put in place at the moment are sensible. Of course, this is of very significant importance for the universities, not just universities, TAFEs and schools in many instances as well. But particularly acute for universities with the return to university. The Government needs to be working very productively with universities to manage this.

Now I see some people have taken themselves to third countries to quarantine for 14 days so they can make the journey to Australia. That's one way of dealing with it. I think the travel ban has been necessary. I mean, the fact that we've had 21 cases in Australia, including six off the Diamond Princess is a testament to what's been put in place and could have been much, much worse. And this is still an ongoing issue of course.

So the Government needs to be working very proactively with universities but we are not calling for a relaxation of the travel ban at this time.

JOURNALIST: The Education Minister is expected to make an announcement about how the Government can help Chinese students, what do you think needs to be done?

BOWEN: Well there needs to be assistance given to universities to manage this very proactively. Universities are putting various steps in place. Of course, there needs to be full communication with students in China. And of course, we would welcome any other proactive steps that the Government chooses put in place.

JOURNALIST: Were you always in favour of Labor re-affirming a 2050 goal before coming up with a policy mechanism to achieve it, and the modelling. Obviously there is a risk for Labor in doing so and could come under fire from the Government like we saw before the last election?

BOWEN: Well as Anthony Albanese and Mark Butler made clear, we are laying out this target and we'll have much more to say about the mechanisms and the pathway to meet the target. That's a measure and a process I fully support, have supported, will continue to support and have supported consistently.

JOURNALIST: How do you successfully convince Australians that jobs won't be lost and that their power bills won't be higher as a result of this goal?

BOWEN: Well, I think we prosecute the case on the facts. The facts are that the cheapest source of new energy is renewable energy. The fact is that more renewable energy puts downward pressure on energy prices not upward pressure. Despite what the troglodytes in the National Party and Liberal Party will have us think that somehow renewable energy is more expensive. Renewable Energy is the cheapest form of energy. Despite the fact that the billions of dollars that will be unleashed by renewable energy investors will create jobs, which the Liberal and National Party seem to ignore. These are all the facts. We will prosecute those facts we will make the argument and I'm confident we can win the argument.

JOURNALIST: Further to that the Coalition is saying that it's going to release its long term energy plan before it heads to the Glasgow Climate Change Conference later this year. Will Labor have any more details on its 2050 target by then?

BOWEN: Well, congratulations to the Government. Seven years in and they say they're going to come up with a policy. Seven years this mob has been in office. Seven years of stop start of climate change denial, of new ideas, of one plan after another, successive ministers, failures years of ministers. Angus Tayler just being the latest in a long line. Now he says he'll go to Glasgow with a plan. Well, he has just come back from Spain where Australia was rightly criticized around the world for our lack of action.

Now seven years in, we're meant to trust that they're going to have a plan. Now, as we've made clear, we will take to the Australian people a very comprehensive and detailed policy when it comes to this. We're laying it out step by step. I think Anthony was right to lay out the 2050 objective as the first step in that in that process. But this Government has no credibility and Australians know it.

JOURNALIST: Should Labor at lease consider adopting the coalition's emissions target for 2030?

BOWEN: Well, look, what we said is that the target that we originally set out for 2030 was set in 2015. We've had seven years of missed opportunities from this Government.

Obviously now we're five years after that target was originally set so it is appropriate to take our time to consider. It would have been a lot easier to achieve it if we started in 2015 than nd starting today. So I support the measures that have been outlined, of course will have more to say about the pathway and the detailed policy mechanism. But we have plenty of time to do that before the next election.

JOURNALIST: Would you be open to nuclear power?

BOWEN: No. I mean, here we have again, the economics of nuclear power don't stack up. Report after report have shown that. Nuclear power, that Keith Pitt is promoting as the relevant minister is complete furphy. I mean, you could start building a nuclear power station today, and it wouldn't be ready for decades. The idea that this is part of the mix for Australia's response to global warming is a fantasy and a furphy.

JOURNALIST: So just confirming Labor will have more details on its 2050 target by the end of the year?

BOWEN: As Anthony Albanese and Mark Butler laid out yesterday, we will have detailed pathways, mechanisms and policies in place, but the most important starting point is the zero target. One that Boris Johnson subscribes to, Angela Merkel subscribes to, Canada, Justin Trudeau subscribe to. Every state and territory in Australia subscribes to. The Business Council subscribes to. The people who don't subscribe to it are Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg and Michael McCormack.

JOURNALIST: Can you confirm that Labor has no plans to ban thermal coal exports?

BOWEN: Yes. Thanks very much.