Interview - Natalie Barr, Sunrise
SUBJECTS: Vaping in schools; renewable energy target
NATALIE BARR: The Federal Government will work with schools to crackdown on students caught vaping. It comes after Health Minister Mark Butler stated e‑cigarettes have become the number one behavioural issue in our high schools and proposed a suite of reforms aimed at reducing the vaping epidemic.
Let's bring in Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley.
Good morning to both of you in the studio today.
SUSSAN LEY: Good morning.
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Good morning.
BARR: Jason, you're planning to write a letter to State Education Ministers about this. What will you say?
CLARE: It’s all about how do we work together to get these things out of our schools. It's a massive issue in our schools. The companies that make these things…
BARR: Well do you know?
CLARE: …it includes getting rid of the fancy packaging. These things look like highlighters or USBs that you can hide in pencil cases or school bags. Getting rid of the fancy flavours. You can buy these things in flavours like cookies and cream. They're designed to target our kids and they've got chemicals in it that you'd find in weed killer. That's why parents are worried about it. Teachers are being turned into de facto vaping police looking for these things in school bags. And as Mark said, this has become a big behavioural issue in schools.
Apart from mobile phones, principals will tell you this is the number one behavioural issue, with kids withdrawing from the vapes, skipping class to vape, distracted in class. All of those things we need to do. You've got to get them out of the corner store, get them out of the petrol station as well. If it's a therapeutic, it should be in the chemist.
But on top of that there's work that we can do with State Governments and Education Ministers on an education campaign to help to get these out of our schools and stop the attractiveness that kids have for these sorts of toxic drugs.
BARR: Yeah, this has been happening for several years, hasn't it? Teachers are at the bottom of this trying to, you know, navigate. How did it get this bad, Sussan?
LEY: It got this bad because students, teachers did their best but unfortunately the insidious movement behind providing, you know, these evil things to children was just allowed to get going in a way that it never should have.
I'm on a unity ticket with Jason on this, and of course we want to declare war on vapes in schools because Jason's right, schoolteachers want to be there to do what they love, they want to teach the children.
LEY: They do not want to have to police vaping parties in the toilets or wondering what sort of effects they're going to find on students in their classes, Nat. So we're absolutely very happy to support the Government to declare war on vapes in schools.
CLARE: And we've both worked together to reduce the amount of cigarette smoking in Australia.
BARR: You're right. So this is the next war.
BARR: Parents are going to be very happy about that.
Moving on, the former CEO of the Snowy Hydro 2.0 project has slammed the Government's 80 per cent renewables target by 2030. Paul Broad says the transition can't be completed in eight years, it will be more like 80. He had some very blue language on this. Jason, what's your response?
CLARE: It's too early in the morning for blue language here.
BARR: But what he said was basically “We can't do this.”
CLARE: I think that's wrong; we can do it. It's a tough thing to do but we have to do it. The old coal‑fired power stations are running out of puff, so they've got to be replaced. You've got a choice, do you replace them with more coal‑fired power stations, or do you replace them with renewable energy? Renewable energy is cleaner but it's also cheaper than building another coal‑fired power station. Now the job here is to get that done and to build it.
The Snowy Hydro project is a good project, but it's been plagued by delays. The former government covered that up, they knew that it was delayed by 18 months. We've exposed that now this week. Now we've got to about the task of fixing it.
BARR: I know you're denying that, but the problem here is coal‑fired power is expensive. It's been closing down for years but it doesn't seem like we're ready for renewables.
LEY: Nat, Paul Broad is not a politician. He's a leader in the energy, arguably the renewable energy industry, and he has sounded a warning. I'm not even going to get into the back and forth with Jason on power prices. Everyone knows they're not getting a $275 reduction. Everyone knows their power prices are going up by at least 25 per cent. But I don't want Australians this winter to have to choose between heating and eating.
In 2023 we shouldn't have to say, 'Is it fuel or is it power?' And just remember, Paul Broad is not talking about power price increases, he's talking about blackouts, and that's something that I don't see a plan from this Government to do something about. We have a problem; we need a plan.
BARR: But coal fire, I mean I think nine coal‑fired power stations closed down between 2010 and 2016, that was under your Government. So did you sort of think maybe we do some stuff to, you know, to get the power on?
LEY: Nat, we had a transition plan in place and what that was absolutely predicated on was that you wouldn't have blackouts. You would have affordable, reliable, base‑load power so Australians could keep the lights on. And that transition to renewable energy that of course is so important, we all want to see and we're all part of, it has to happen in a way that doesn't mean that households are actually paying too much or losing power.
BARR: Well you're right, nobody wants to see that. We thank you very much for coming in today.