13 February 2017
Transcript - #2017014, 2017

Interview with David Speers, Sky News

SUBJECTS: Turnbull Government delivering $3 billion boost to responsibly fund the NDIS; Energy policy; Bill Shorten and Labor's opposition to lower power prices; WA election preferencing, Turnbull Government's Enterprise Tax Plan to drive economic growth

DAVID SPEERS:

We are back after momentarily losing power there – apologies, Treasurer.

TREASURER:

I should have brought my coal.

DAVID SPEERS:

[laughter] The lump of coal. Perhaps. Anyway, we battled through divisions and a brief blackout there as well. Let's get back to this NDIS Bill. What happens if you can't pass all of these savings measures in this Omnibus Bill? Does that mean there won't be all the money there for the NDIS?

TREASURER:

It means that money will be found from other savings from revenue measures or debt.

DAVID SPEERS:

You are guaranteeing that NDIS funding?

TREASURER:

We are absolutely committed to the NDIS. But this is why you need to find these savings to redirect to the commitments that we have. It's just not the process of getting back to balance by 2021. As you'll be aware, beyond the forward estimates for the previous Labor Government…

DAVID SPEERS:

That's where the cost benefits are.

TREASURER:

They loaded the NDIS into that period of time, as they did on a range of other things in health and education, without having the means to pay for it.

DAVID SPEERS:

Does today change anything though? As you pointed out earlier, the Budget bottom line isn't affected by what you've announced today. You were always going to fund the NDIS and you were always going to try and get these savings over here?

TREASURER:

We've quarantined this money, so it means our future governments – ourselves indeed – are unable to squirrel money away from this fund to go and pay for other commitments.

DAVID SPEERS:

[inaudible] Isn't that also a locked box?

TREASURER:

No, it's not. Consolidated revenue can go across any areas of government expenditure. This is a locked box for the NDIS. A locked box the Labor Party refused to put in. It was a hollow promise and we're making good on that promise by saying: 'This is the NDIS. This is how much it costs and this is what we need to do to fund it.'

DAVID SPEERS:

Labor says you'd be able to pay for the NDIS if you didn't put $50 billion into the pockets of the companies in your company tax cut.

TREASURER:

Well, I'll only quote the Reserve Bank Governor who says you need to be able to do both of these things together. Now, it was the Labor Party when they had a deficit of $41 billion and rising, they argued for corporate tax cuts. Chris Bowen himself, as I said it in the House today, actually drew attention to the United Kingdom which had a far greater deficit than we have today and commended them for going forward with those measures – so who knows what the Labor Party believes.

DAVID SPEERS:

This company tax debate though, those comments from Labor were in a time when debt wasn't as deep as it is now.

TREASURER:

It was growing faster, that's for sure. Debt was skyrocketing under Labor. It was growing at three, four times the rate that it is today, because we've been getting the Budget consolidation measures in and we're on a path back to balance on the current projections. And we need to keep doing that and the way you keep doing that is you pass these savings. There are only three things you can do, it's a finite universe. You can either pay for the NDIS and the many other calls on the public purse by better targeting spending – which is what we're doing with this Bill. You can increase taxes. Or you can put the debt on future generations.

DAVID SPEERS:

Now, getting back to that lump of coal. You have highlighted – and the Government has rightly highlighted – rising electricity prices as a big concern for households and businesses out there. What's the Government actually going to do about it?

TREASURER:

We've set out very clearly that there is an 'all-of-the-above' policy framework that we're putting, which means whether it's coal or whether it's renewables or whether it's solar or these sorts of things, pump-hydro and storage. Storage is very important, which is what the Prime Minister has been talking about, and the fact that there's been no delivery on storage capacity by the states when they've gone down this renewables path on an ideological bent rather than…

DAVID SPEERS:

Is that a role for the Federal Government to get into?

TREASURER:

We're looking at all the ways we can deliver energy security and we'll be working on that up to the Budget and beyond. But the real issue is – I mentioned it this morning on the radio –we have five power stations closing in the next ten years. That's 8000 megawatts in capacity and so on, these are serious contributors to the national grid. Now, they will be coming offline as a result of age it's understood, but we don't want to cheer that process on. The Labor Party is cheering that on.

DAVID SPEERS:

You've been in Government now, what three, four years? A new coal-fired power plant takes seven or eight years to build, we've known this was coming…

TREASURER:

But that's partly the point. This has been coming for a very long time and what we're committing to as a Government is having an energy security plan which provides that stability, that certainty, that affordability, but also seeking to meet those emissions reductions targets and to do that you've got to accept every resource. You can't be ideological about this as they are. I mean, a 50 per cent renewable energy target is nuts.

DAVID SPEERS:

So are you cheering on coal?

TREASURER:

No we're saying it has to be part of the mix. What I did the other day was literally put coal back on the table. Labor and the Greens…

DAVID SPEERS:

But how are you putting coal back on the table as a Government?

TREASURER:

To ensure that it is seen as an important part of the energy mix into the future.

DAVID SPEERS:

Because no one's investing in it at the moment.

TREASURER:

That is partly because of the sovereign risk which has been attached to investments in that sector because of the approach which has been taken particularly by the Labor Party and the Greens in the past which has conditioned people away from it. That potentially identifies how the Government may look at this issue but what we need is security. We don't need these power stations closing prematurely. We certainly don't want that to happen. They at least need to run their full life.

DAVID SPEERS:

You've seen the statements today from the business groups and energy groups saying we want the two sides to work more closer together on this and provide some security and certainty for industry.

TREASURER:

What could be more inclusive than saying let's ensure we use every element of resource? It's the Labor Party that wants to rule coal out. Not the Coalition. We want to use every resource. I'm as much of a fan of those traditional sources of energy which, let's not forget, have been the primary source of our energy advantage for Australian businesses for over 100 years and in the jobs in the electorates of whether it's Joel Fitzgibbon or the Member for Shortland or wherever, that's what their constituent do for a living.

DAVID SPEERS:

The market will clearly invest in whatever it wants – coal or wind or batteries –

TREASURER:

It will. And where Government invests, is a matter for Government.

DAVID SPEERS:

Ok but you have to set the structure here, don't you? As to how the market is going to work and that hasn't happened yet.

TREASURER:

Over the course of this year, we'll be making further announcements in this area. It's all about ensuring the interplay of all these different resources and whether it's storage issues, where we've already invested in the research, but now it's for the delivery, it's the continuity that people rely on. Otherwise, what happened in this studio, just a few minutes ago, if Labor gets their vision, it will happen everywhere all the time.

DAVID SPEERS:

I'm not sure we'll blame that on renewables. One Nation. Would you describe One Nation as showing economic rationalism as your colleague did today?

TREASURER:

It's not my job to run a commentary on One Nation…

DAVID SPEERS:

Steve Ciobo shouldn't either?

TREASURER:

Well, I'll leave other ministers and others to make their own judgements. What I know is that in Western Australia what has occurred is exactly what the Queensland Labor Party was I learned –pleading for. So the hypocrisy of Labor today on this issue…

DAVID SPEERS:

So says Pauline Hanson.

TREASURER:

So says Pauline Hanson – I wasn't in that room but clearly she was and the Senator from Queensland has a lot of explaining to do to confirm the details of that conversation.

DAVID SPEERS:

When you were state director of the Liberal Party in New South Wales, from memory, you would have put One Nation last?

TREASURER:

That was the practice back in 2001…

DAVID SPEERS:

And it was the practice of July last year at the Federal Election, what's changed since then?

TREASURER:

I'm not a member of the Western Australian division of the Liberal Party. That is a matter for the Western Australian…

DAVID SPEERS:

So you and your Federal colleagues are no longer saying put One Nation last?

TREASURER:

We'll consider our decisions and the organisation will at the time of the next election, but what is not our practice is to engage in the sort of rank hypocrisy that we've seen the Labor Party do today. And remember, if we're talking about who they do deals with, and apparently this is a 'reckless deal', they do a deal with the Greens at every single election and they think we should walk away from the US alliance and open up borders. Does that mean the Labor Party agrees with those positions? Well, hang on, perhaps they might.

DAVID SPEERS:

Well, you can't comment on their decisions there and not comment on your decisions.

TREASURER:

They're the ones raising this issue of preference deals, not the Coalition. So when they do raise those issues and get drawn into those issues, I'm simply saying that's a decision for the Western Australian division of the Liberal Party. But if you want to look at Labor's practice, well, they're in a mess on this today. They're for it, they're against it. Just like they are for company taxes – they'll say and do anything they want to suit the political circumstances of the day.

DAVID SPEERS:

The bells are ringing again. Treasurer, thank you very much.

TREASURER:

Thank you.