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"We need to say no to modern slavery and to do that we need a Modern Slavery Act." Sky News Transcript, Wednesday, 7 June 2017





SUBJECT/S: Adani Coal Mine, Low Emissions Target, Modern Slavery Act.

TOM CONNELL: To much fanfare yesterday; Adani announced that it had made a final investment decision on the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland saying it had given it the green light. But there's still the not insignificant fact that they are yet to secure a loan on the project. It's something that has caused controversy, with environmental groups saying Australia should not be helping to prop up the project – which would be the biggest coal-export mine in the world. It's also something Labor has been wrestling with internally, and for more on this I'm joined by Labor Senator Lisa Singh. 

Lisa Singh, thanks for your time today. 


CONNELL:  If I could begin by asking you – you have concerns about this. How many of your Labor colleagues share those concerns?

SINGH: Well, I think I've made my concerns pretty clear. For over a year I've been consistent on my concerns to do with this project – both economically and environmentally. And I think there is still a long way to go. This is a project that needs some $16 billion worth of investment and it's still not clear where that's going to come from. We know that there's a number of banks right here in Australia and overseas banks that have said, "No, we're not going to invest in this coal mine," and that's because they know that it's a bad investment. It’s not a sound investment, in fact it could leave them at risk of having stranded assets as more and more investment is made into renewables, as renewables become cheaper, and as we know we need to move towards a more low-emissions economy. An economy where we actually do ensure that we have a sustainable future and reduce global warming.

CONNELL:  Sorry to jump in – if this does get the funding that it needs to from banks and so on, and it all goes through without taxpayer funding as well, will you then say, "OK, fair enough it stacks up," or will you continue to campaign against it?

SINGH: I actually don't think it'll get there, Tom. I actually think it is going to be a very hard feat for it to get there. At the moment, it's up to Malcolm Turnbull whether the government wants to commit a billion dollars of taxpayers' money to prop up this project. I think that is a very bad idea. Labor has made it very clear that we think that this project should stand on its own merits. 

I don't think it will stand on its own merits. You only have to look around the world – the investments are not being made in the coal industry. They're being made in the renewables industry. And this particular mine in itself is – even by coal standards – low-grade, thermal coal. High-ash producing. It will cause health risks for workers and doesn't do anything to limit global warming, in fact it will add to global warming. It doesn't help Australia meet its Paris climate agreements.

CONNELL: You just mentioned there Labor wants to see if it stands on its own two feet in terms of it not needing taxpayer money. If that does happen – still a possibility – if that does happen, would you stop campaigning against it, or is this something you want to keep going through until the end?

SINGH: Well I can't say I’ve been campaigning against it. I've just been making my views clear. I'm not the only one with these views these views are shared by banks, for goodness sake! I mean even if Malcolm Turnbull quite stupidly provides a loan to this project, it's still got to come up with the rest of the billions of dollars it needs to get it off the ground. India has made it clear it is phasing out importing coal in the next few years. It is investing in renewables as the way forward. Where is it going to export its coal to? So, still a long way, I think, for this project to go. I don't think it stacks up economically, I don't think it stacks up environmentally, so we'll see where the cards fall.

CONNELL: What about more broadly on climate, it looks like the coalition is moving towards this – what they're calling a "low emissions target". This is seen as perhaps a watered-down version of an emissions intensity scheme. What are your thoughts on this, any concerns?

SINGH: We've been in this inertia for so many years now, which has created an environment of investment uncertainty for investors wanting to be in the renewable space in Australia. All because the government's put out the wrong kind of political framework and setting. So what we have said is we want to see action. Of course Labor supports an emissions intensity scheme but in light of that not happening, maybe a low emissions target is a way forward to break that awful inertia that the government's created. Now we'll wait and see on Friday for Mr Finkel to hand down his report and see the details of that. Of course, we've seen the reports already from the Climate Change Authority. The government needs to take action on this and listen to the experts to actually move forward. Because if it doesn't, it is limiting job creation in this country, it is limiting economic growth, and how is that good for Australia? How is that good for ensuring we limit global warming? It's simply the wrong move, so we want to see the government move on this.

CONNELL: Alright fair enough, we'll see the detail. Just finally Labor's looking to establish new laws to make companies essentially report on slavery in their supply chains. How does this work exactly and do you have specific companies in mind?

SINGH: I think most Australians wouldn't even be aware that the products, the goods and services they use, that some of those have been created by people that are enslaved. And in Australia alone we have more than 4000 Australians in slavery-like conditions and 45 million in the world, and two thirds of them coming from the Asian-Pacific region. So Labor is acting on this. This is an issue that goes to the heart of our social fabric. We need to say no to modern slavery and to do that we need a Modern Slavery Act. Just like's been created in France and the UK and the like, and Labor has been very strong on this for a long time. We don't want to see people enslaved or in slavery-like conditions, whether it is through forced labour, situations of forced marriage even. So I am a part of an inquiry that's looking into this. There's been a lot of support for it and we want to see no slavery in our global supply chains.

CONNELL: Okay we are right out of time, but just ask very briefly though, are you willing to put names to any companies in mind here that you're targeting?

SINGH: We're targeting big companies to start with. There will be big companies that will be the focus. But, of course, it's about them showing due diligence and reporting to show that they are stamping out slavery in their supply chains.

CONNELL: Labor Senator Lisa Singh, thanks for your time today.