Interview on Sky News, Afternoon Agenda with Kieran Gilbert

KIERAN GILBERT: Federal politics now. With me is Labor frontbencher, Minister for Territories and Local Government, Kristy McBain. Thanks for your time and for joining us in the studio. The Greens and the Coalition both opposed to the Safeguard Mechanism as it is at the moment, that's Labor's climate policy. Will the government compromise? Is it open to compromise?

KRISTY MCBAIN: We took substantial policy to the election and we now have a mandate to deliver that. We've got a majority in the House. The Greens really need to think hard about what they're doing here. We saw them make the perfect the enemy of the good in 2009, and our climate action was delayed for a decade. In that time emissions went up, carbon pollution went up. They need to think good and hard now about whether they want to see practical action on climate change or whether they're going to be held back by ideology.

GILBERT: I spoke to Ted O'Brien on this program a bit earlier, the Liberal climate spokesperson. His argument in opposing this is, he says, there is no modelling about the impact on business closures and he says he's spoken to a number of businesses who are worried about the adverse impact on their own operations. Is that a valid stance? Should there be more information provided by the government?

MCBAIN: The Safeguards Mechanism was designed by the previous government, it was a Coalition design. We understand that it can actually work. We have gone to business groups with it. We know it's been endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It's been endorsed by every business organisation going. The only people who are now opposing their own previous policy is the Coalition. We've seen the member for Hume give it glowing recommendations when he was in the portfolio, and now he's trying to walk that back, saying it's a terrible idea. They really need to understand what their position is because it's flip flopping around.

GILBERT: But when they're arguing that it can add to costs and Ted O'Brien saying it's the biggest carbon tax that we've ever seen, is it potentially something that will bite among voters? Because with interest rates going up, cost of living soaring, are you vulnerable to that sort of attack once again?

MCBAIN: It’d be interesting for Ted O'Brien to claim that his own side introduced a carbon tax because it is their policy. We’re making it stronger. We have talked to business and industry groups across the country. It's been endorsed by all of those peak organisations. We have big emitters who are saying we want this mechanism in place, we want to get on board, we want to help get to net zero by 2050. The Coalition and the Greens are the only people standing in the way.

GILBERT: On the housing affordability fund, the Greens abstained from the vote. They want more direct dollars into that issue. They're saying that the fund, as it is put forward, is like a future fund. If, say, the $10 billion investment doesn't generate returns in one year, there'll be no funds for improved affordable housing. Will the government provide some more dollars to try and win their support?

MCBAIN: This is the biggest investment in social and affordable housing in over a decade. What the Greens are saying is, thanks for the investment, but we're going to vote against it. That just seems ridiculous. If you want to actually start addressing the housing crisis, and the housing crisis is real and biting in our regions, you actually have to make investments. That's exactly what we're doing. It’s absolutely pathetic when we have members of Parliament who abstain from voting. You are elected in this place to vote. I don't care whether that's at a local council level, at state government level. You are elected to vote and that's exactly what you should do.

GILBERT: On the National Reconstruction Fund, the government faces accusations or critique that this is going to drive up inflation because you're putting government dollars into an economy that's already overheating. Is that a risk?

MCBAIN: The lesson learned from the pandemic was that we were at the end of supply chains. Supply chains were broken. We weren't making enough things in this country to sustain us when those global shocks were happening. What we're doing is putting in place an independent board which will oversee any investment in any sector. That board will be responsible for the maintenance and the allocation of the those funds. It’s high time that we back Australian manufacturing in a number of sectors, and we are the only party that's prepared to do so.

GILBERT: Kristy McBain, thanks for your time on a busy parliamentary day. Appreciate it.

MCBAIN: Thank you very much, Kieran.