14 June 2017
Transcript - #2017117, 2017

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: Energy policy.

QUESTION:

Treasurer is the clean energy target dead?

TREASURER:

No. We received Dr Finkel’s report through COAG last Friday. It’s Wednesday. Yesterday was the first discussion we’ve had as a team, and I thought it was a very useful discussion.

QUESTION:

But how does the Prime Minister come up with a compromise that satisfies not only the party room but also the opposition?

TREASURER:

Well this is the job of Government. The job of Government is to deal with difficult issues and bring them to a resolution, and do that for the Australian people. We’ve done that on any number of issues. Whether it’s restoring the rule of law to the building industry or ensuring we’ve brought forward a Budget which takes the country balance sheet back into the black by 2021, that’s what the projection is, and to work through the difficult issues of ensuring we fully fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme, get needs-based funding for schools. These are all difficult issues that the Australian people need to have resolved, and as a Government we are working in a way to get those outcomes, and that’s what we’ll spend night and day doing.

QUESTION:

At least on MP has been quoted as saying this will cost Malcolm Turnbull his leadership. Is he safe?

TREASURER:

Those sorts of assertions are better placed with New Idea than they are for news. What we’re focused on is getting an outcome for the Australian people. We’re working through that process, I think, in a very responsible and methodical way. We’re in our process as a Government, consulting with colleagues. What there was yesterday was a clear consensus that if you stick to the status quo on energy policy then prices are going to go up which is going to hurt families, hurt households, hurt businesses, hurt the economy. So continuing to go down the `business as usual’ approach on energy is not a good idea, and I think there’s a clear consensus on that. There was also, I think, a wide-spread acknowledgment of the excellent work that both Josh Frydenberg as the Minister, and of course the Prime Minister have done in engaging colleagues about this issue. This is a difficult issue. For ten years and more politics as usual, has delivered a `business as usual’ outcome here. We can’t do `politics as usual’ when it comes to addressing this issue. We need to find a way forward which provides certainty for investment. We need to ensure that we are taking full advantage of all of the resources Australia has to deliver an energy advantage but also affordability, stability, security and of course sustainability. So, it’s a tall order, and it’s one that I’m very confident we’ll be able to meet.

QUESTION:

What’s your personal view on the clean energy target?

TREASURER:

I think Dr Finkel has done an excellent job in outlining what the problem is. And the problem is we don’t have investor certainty in investing in energy in this country. And until you can get that certainty, you’re not going to see dollars go in any direction in any meaningful way over time, whether that’s to retrofitting existing coal fired power stations to continue to provide base load support in the system over the next 20, 30 or even more years. If you keep going down the status quo path on this, on this issue, what you will see is our traditional advantage of coal-fired assets eroded. They will shut earlier, they won’t be [inaudible] as long, and at the same time, you won’t see the [inaudible] stability go into other parts of the sector which are so important. So as Treasurer it is important for our economy that we have a stable system which investors can put their investment funds to deliver what our economy needs.

QUESTION:

Is there room to move, to scale back on the CET? Give more incentives to [inaudible]?

TREASURER:

We received the report on Friday, we had a discussion yesterday, and I think what I advise everyone to do is exercise some patience, whether it’s in the media or elsewhere. This is a mature responsible discussion which the Government is having to deal with a very difficult issue, which has frankly vexed government for over a decade, and so if there are any expectations that all of a sudden, a couple of days after the release of the Finkel Report that it would all be presented nicely tied up in a bow and presented to the media as a solved issue, I think that’s quite frankly naive and unrealistic. What we’ve been doing is working through this difficult issue and I think Dr Finkel has provided us an excellent platform upon which to have this discussion and go forward and that will continue. We’ll work with colleagues; we will work with the Parliament. But I know that a `politics as usual’ approach on energy policy is going to produce a business as usual result, and that is going to be bad for households, families and businesses and that’s not an option the Government is entertaining.

QUESTION:

On your personal view, and I know you’re short on time so can we go to the specifics, would you like to see the threshold high enough to include so called clean coal in the incentives scheme?

TREASURER:

I believe that will be achieved.

QUESTION:

So you would like threshold high enough?

TREASURER:

I believe it will be achieved.