Jennifer Westacott interivew with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

03 November 2021

Event: Jennifer Westacott interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News Agenda 

Speakers:  Kieran Gilbert, host; Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia

Date: 3 November 2021

Topics: 2021 John Monash Oration, achieving net zero emissions, skills, 2022 election 

Kieran Gilbert, host: Jennifer you gave the Monash Oration today. A very interesting speech, including where you double down, you reiterate, that failing to decarbonise is going to be the single biggest drag on our ability to compete in the world. Do you regret that the business community hasn't been quicker to the mark on this?

Jennifer Westacott, Business Council chief executive: No. I think the business community has been really quick, the business community has been acting. Companies have been committing to net zero. They've been changing their processes, which is the point I'm making in my speech today. BHP, Rio, Fortescue, have all been actually doing things to reduce their carbon emissions, getting into new processes, getting into new technologies. I think where we wanted to get was to a policy position and a policy framework, having done two years of work, to make sure that we can get something that we know is written by business, written for business, can be delivered by business and that we can actually get done. I think business has been leading on this, probably more so than governments have to be perfectly honest.

Kieran: But the BCA and others have copped flack for, you know, now committing to this ambitious target that it three years ago was critical of, 45%. That's, I guess, that's their critique?

Jennifer: Yeah but I think a lot has changed since then. And I've gone through that, but just to kind of reiterate: the United States had pulled out of Paris, companies which we were talking to were very concerned about that target, now in those last three years they've really got that momentum. We didn't have a technology roadmap, renewables have now really taken off, other countries have committed to lower their emissions and that really has a big impact on us because what we do has to line up with the rest of the world. I understand that criticism but I don't accept it because I think the evidence has changed. The facts have changed. We did two years of work about what could you actually do. I do think things are very, very different since 2018, 2019.

Kieran: In the Oration today, the speech, I was very interested to see that in the lead up to the election, your challenge is how do we start thinking about shaping the future, thinking about what Australians want and what they need. What's the answer to that? It's a broad question, but what's your view?

Jennifer: Yeah, I think they want a sense of inspiration about the things that we can do, and they want a sense of trust and confidence that we are actually going to get things done. I think they're looking for that vision about the new industries and new jobs. They want to see that climate change and decarbonisation agenda expressed in a positive way because when I talk to communities, and you and I have been talking to communities for many years, they all see it as an opportunity, and they want to know how we're going to do it. They want to see a plan for skills, they want to know that their kids are going to be able to get good jobs. They want to see a plan for growth. They want to see that we're going to continue to give people the right services. And I think, as I say at the end of my speech, they want the country to get open again, they want to be able to travel around their country freely. They want to be able to get their jobs back and they want to see the country getting going again. Now I think we've got to tap into both those short-term perspectives that people have but also when I talk to people in the community they want that vision about the sort of country we could be. What I call that innovative, modern, advanced economy creating a different sort of job, new jobs, keeping some of the jobs we've got by strengthened our existing industries but also getting into those new areas I talk about in my speech - defense industry, space, going up the value chain in agriculture and seizing the opportunities that the world is really giving us. I think what Australians want, almost more than anything Kieran, is a sense of hope, a sense of vision and a sense that we've got the way of getting things done. They want to see things happening.

Kieran: Great to chat as always.


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