Transcript: Sky News 12/11/2019

1.15pm | December 20, 2019


TOM CONNELL, HOST:  Thanks very much for your time




HOST:  The situation in NSW still a huge concern, obviously you can feel a long way away when you’re not there but for the people on the ground they will be feeling pretty terrified, some of them this afternoon.


MCALLISTER:  Yeah this is a really difficult day for NSW, and lots of the areas that are impacted in Northern NSW and on the North Coast are places I know quite well. I grew up in the Tweed and so those communities around Lismore, Grafton and you know, down towards Coffs that are being impacted by some of these big, out of control blazes are communities that I know. They are also communities that are really strong, they’re very resilient, they’re very community focused. I know that people will be looking out for each other and looking out for their neighbours, but my heart really goes out to them because this is a really difficult day.


HOST: I think one of the community strength elements was sort of exemplified by a note from some of the firies saying sorry that they had to take some milk from a house that they had saved, they couldn’t save the shed, they saved the home, they said they owed them some milk so I think…


MCALLISTER:  I actually know that man.


HOST: There you go.


MCALLISTER: If it’s the same note, I saw that posted on twitter and I know the man who posted that and I am so pleased for him that his house was saved. And it’s a lovely story about the interaction between a person in the community who’s been affected, and these volunteers who risk so much to help other people.


HOST: It is not at all to dismiss the seriousness and you know the extent to which communities in the bush get hit by this but I think it might be a shock to some people that all of greater Sydney is now in this catastrophic level. It doesn’t mean that the whole of the city is going to burn down of course, but that any bushfire regions there are at this catastrophic level in November.


MCALLISTER: It is really shocking and I think the words used by a lot of the professional and volunteer forces are that these are unprecedented conditions; it’s very unusual indeed to have so much of NSW so significantly impacted so early in the year.


HOST: Some of these people would be looking back at their politicians and maybe shaking their head. We’ve had the Greens Senator Jordan Steele- John – he was objecting to debate going on today to do with the so called ‘big stick’ energy legislation bill. He says the Coalition and Labor are borderline arsonists. Barnaby Joyce is talking about the two people who have died likely to have been Greens voters, he clarified he wasn’t attacking them but it seemed like a strange thing to bring up. What have you made of the discourse here in Canberra?


MCALLISTER: I think that is incredibly disappointing. No one on our side - thinking about Senator Steele John’s remarks - no one on our side disputes the science of climate change but today I think some of these people might be missing the fact that there are people on the ground who are having a very difficult day today and I think the last thing that they need to hear that people down in Canberra are taking pot shots at one another, seeking to make political points, or score political points, off their very personal stories and I, as Senator Wong indicated yesterday, there will be a time to talk about causes but people in country NSW, people worried about their properties in the Illawarra, or Sydney or the Hunter just need to know that people in Canberra are one hundred percent focused on the operational response and supporting them at this time today.


HOST: And we’ve got obviously the government talking about measures being taken, even potentially army reservists being called up. Nonetheless there are still people out there saying we do want a conversation, a pretty serious one, we don’t want this to be our permanent future or even worse than that. Does this impact your thinking at all in terms of the future to do with climate change, and taking action and the stand that Labor might take?


MCALLISTER: As I said, no one in our team disputes the science of climate change and in fact we have been advocating for a very long time about a serious climate response and that’s informed by some of the information scientists have been telling us for a very long time. But right now the people who are facing down a fire front or are out there volunteering to help their neighbours or are mourning a person – they don’t need to hear us fighting about the causes of the fire, they need to know they have our 100 percent attention right now.


HOST: Without fighting over the causes though, it is coming just after the Labor Review that spoke about there was too much rhetoric that you know might have scared off people that well, coal workers or people involved in the industry in some way. Is this the other side of the coin that people should know that Labor won’t be worried if they need to take a stand that does say – well here’s at point at which we stop using coal, here is a point which we shouldn’t necessarily be exporting coal – the biggest exporter in the world?


MCALLISTER: I think, as I said, our focus is on people who are facing something really difficult. We’ve said as part of the Review that all of our policies are up for discussion, but what isn’t up for discussion is our commitment to serious action on climate change. That hasn’t changed for a decade, at least. It is not going to change under any Labor administration that I can imagine.


HOST: And that I guess when you say change means a huge pulling back of the target for example, the emissions reduction target that would constitute a change in effort? So you wouldn’t imagine Labor would go down that path.


MCALLISTER: Look, as I said today is not the day to have a deep conversation about climate policy. It is a day to focus on the operational questions facing the many people who are impacted by the fires. But yes, our principles are clear. We will be guided by the science and we will take, we will propose action at the appropriate time approaching the election that is commensurate with the science.


HOST: Alright, we’ll have that discussion perhaps more in depth one another day. Did you want to finish on a message for your people in NSW?


MCALLISTER: Just, look after each other, listen to the guidance from the RFS and know that there are plenty of people here in Canberra thinking about you and really wishing people, wishing that people can stay safe over the next 24 hours.


HOST: Jenny McAllister thank you for your time today.


MCALLISTER: Thank you.