Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News First Edition


21 October 2019


LAURA JAYES: Minister, thank you for your time. Barnaby Joyce was not on the back foot this morning. Does he have a point when it comes to media freedom?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, Laura, press freedom is enormously important. It is enormously important to democracy, as you said, and as Barnaby said. I think Australians understand the key here is a balance. We've got to get the balance right. There is obviously a balance between press freedom and national security at times. We should err on the side of freedom of press, there's no doubt about that - but there are times when that does need to be balanced against national security considerations. Now, as you are aware, there's a parliamentary committee looking at this now, the Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security. It's one of the most prominent and important committees in the Parliament, and they're due to report back by the end of November. This is important work, and as we've always said, we're open to the evidence and strong arguments that suggests that we can strike the balance in a different way.

LAURA JAYES: You say that policy settings should err on the side of press freedom but that committee that you refer to is actually a national security and intelligence committee. So how can we expect that committee to even come up with any kind of balance when it is a committee committed to looking at national security?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well I think it's fair to say that the people on that committee are interested in the broader national interest. I mean, they are very good people from across the Parliament that understand that balance is crucial to this. It's chaired by Andrew Hastie, I know he is absolutely committed to getting the balance right and striking the right balance on this, but there's members of other parties on the committee as well, of course. And I'm very confident that they will seek to strike the right balance in their considerations.

LAURA JAYES: Every media organisation - that wouldn't have escaped your attention this morning, Angus Taylor - has united, calling on the Government to do more when it comes to press freedom this morning. This committee notwithstanding, will your Government act?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well let's see what they come forward with. I mean, we are speculating this point. It is an important piece of work that they're doing. These are really important issues and speculating on potential ideas which haven't been laid out yet - frankly, let's wait and see what the committee comes forward with. But you know, look, Laura, I absolutely respect the fact that freedom of press is central to a democracy. So too is protecting the security of all Australians. We've got to strike that balance. This is a very, very important debate. You rightly point out that it's an important debate.


ANGUS TAYLOR: And I'm sure there'll be much more discussion and debate about it in the coming months.

LAURA JAYES: But you can see that the balance isn't quite right now?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, I didn't say that. I just said that there's work that is being done, and that we have to have a sensible and robust debate and that we'll respond to strong evidence and arguments. I mean, that's the appropriate way to deal with this. Rushing into these issues never makes sense. We've got to get it right.

LAURA JAYES: Okay, there is a climate emergency bill, I guess, a declaration before the Parliament this morning around 10:30. How would you describe the climate change situation at the moment? If it's not an emergency, what is it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well it's about taking real action, not hollow symbolism and empty gestures. I mean, that's what it's about. I mean, the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, who we don't agree with on a lot of things has said it's not about words and motions, it's about actions. And so that's what we're doing, Laura. We've set ourselves a strong target. We've got a clear plan to achieve that target - laid out to the last tonne through to 2030. We know we're going to over achieve meet and beat our 2020 targets, and we're getting on with the job with that strong plan and our track record is very, very strong. As I said, we're going to over achieve on our 2020 targets by a very significant margin; 367 million tonnes. So it is about actions and it is about delivery, not about hollow symbolism. I've got to say Labor, on the one hand, want to make a song and dance about a climate emergency backing the Greens in in their motion last week. On the other hand, they have not committed to a single policy since the last election, Laura. This is about real and meaningful action, not empty gestures.

LAURA JAYES: Well we will see that motion go before the Parliament this morning. We've also seen mass rolling protests, not just from Extinction Rebellion, but families giving up their weekend, hundreds of thousands of them, to go into a major city around Australia just a couple of months ago to protest or call for more action on climate change. What does this say about the Government and action in this area? Do you take note of any of those protesters and have any kind of introspection about what the Government is or isn't doing?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well the Government needs to take strong action and we absolutely are. That is the point. But I've got to tell you that the thing about Labor on this motion that they're taking to the Parliament today is they haven't defined what a climate emergency is. They're not, they haven't defined it because they don't have any policies in this area and they're refusing to bring them forward. But let me tell you how it has been defined, Laura - a number of the groups involved, including the Greens who put the motion up last week that Labor supported, have said no more coal, no more gas, no more oil, no new projects.

LAURA JAYES: [Talks over] It doesn't actually say that in the motion, does it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I mean they've jumped in the electric car with Bob Brown.

LAURA JAYES: It doesn't actually say that in the motion, does it? Does it actually say that in the motion?

ANGUS TAYLOR: But that is what the groups who are supporting this have said. They supported the Greens motion in the Parliament last week and that's what the Greens have said the definition of it is. Now, Labor have not been prepared to define it. They have not been prepared to define it but others have, and that means no new coal, no new gas, getting rid of our existing coal-fired power stations as quickly as possible, and no new oil. I mean this is extraordinary. This is where Labor is going. On the one hand, empty gestures, hollow symbolism. On the other hand, they're not prepared to commit to policies but we know how the policies have been defined.

LAURA JAYES: But you're in government - aren't you being a bit clever there? You know that all Labor's policies are put for a review to be handed down on the 8th of November.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well then why are they supporting a climate emergency? I mean this is the question, Laura. On the one hand, they're not prepared to commit to policies on the other hand, they're prepared to use - using the words of Daniel Andrews - words and motions rather than actions. I mean this is about actions and it is about delivery.

LAURA JAYES: Alright. Labor will probably question the Department today about the investigation into Jam Land which is yet to conclude. Do you think that department officials you met with knew the property you owned affected by the protection order you were discussing; do you think that they knew that that's what they were discussing at the time?

ANGUS TAYLOR: This has been round the ringer so many times. Look, I declared my interests very clearly to the Parliament to the Prime Minister and also to the Minister. The Department was aware of my relationship and there was no discussion with the [indistinct] at any time on the compliance matter. Look, we've been through this so many times. Labor, in some kind of desperate act, want to dredge it up. I mean, really, let's get on with focusing on the real issues like the ones we've just been talking about.

LAURA JAYES: Angus Taylor, appreciate your time.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Laura.

Minister for the Environment