10 August 2017
Transcript - #2017151, 2017

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: Turnbull Government delivering a better deal on energy prices for Australian families; same sex marriage.

TREASURER:

Yesterday it was good to meet with the energy retailers as we discussed in the press conference yesterday and now I look forward to them getting on with giving power back to customers over their power bill. We’ll continue to pursue that agenda, the ACCC will be continuing its investigation both on electricity as well as gas, and there’s still a lot of work to do there. What sits at the heart of a lot of this is ensuring that customers have the authority and power in the market to enable them to have greater control over their power bills. The same is true there as it is in banking, or telecommunications, or in any other of these areas of services and we want customers to have greater power.

QUESTION:

Will the customers of the Australian Government, the taxpayers, be confident that spending $122 million on a plebiscite is money well spent?

TREASURER:

At the last election, we were very up front with the Australian people, we said we were going to have a plebiscite to give all Australians a say, about this issue. We were up front with the cost, and since then, since the last election, over $30 billion in Budget improvement measures have passed. This is a Government that has been getting expenditure under control. I remind you that it was the Senate and the Labor Party that blocked $14.7 billion in Budget improvement measures and the Government had to take other actions to address that. So we’re up front about the say, we’re following through on that, we’re keeping our promise, and I think the Australian people expect Governments to keep their promises and that’s what we’re doing.

QUESTION:

Scott, just back on to electricity, David Leyonhjelm is suggesting that if the GST was removed from the electricity sector that would save households around $200 a year, is that something that you would want to talk about with the states and territories, or the states.

TREASURER:

Well I’d be very surprised if the states were interested in shrinking the GST base. The issue on GST, as you know, is how the GST is being distributed particularly in Western Australia. Now that’s very important, as and you know we’ve got a Productivity Commission review going on at the moment into whether the way we distribute the GST is actually costing our economy, and so I look forward to receiving their advice on that. But the GST base, some would argue, particularly the states, that it’s too narrow. And that it shouldn’t be further narrowed.

QUESTION:

Is one of the problems with the measures that you’re taking to bring down the cost of electricity that it does require action from the consumer that companies present them with information, these are not always easy to understand areas, that you have a lot of information you have not much time to make these decisions, could companies actually do the right thing and put customers on the best plan for them without the customer having to compare plans and look the different options?

TREASURER:

There’s no doubt the complexity in the system is always stacked in the favour of the big energy retailers. They profit from that complexity, clearly. You’ve got just about 1.2 million households that are clearly not on the best offer because they’re on the standard offer, so this is really important to give this power back to customers. But you’re absolutely right, when you give customers the power you want them to use it as well. The most competitive markets are the ones where the customer is the strongest; that is actually the key indicator for how competitive the market is, and if a customer is being snowed over, then it’s very hard for them to get the best deal and what we’re seeking to do is clear the blizzard on this and make sure that Australians are better informed, have the right tools available to them and not just about how they get a better deal, but as we continue to work on this issue we need to do more to ensure that customers are in a better position about how they use their energy and the best way to do that to bring their power prices down. So you’ve got to attack this issue from so many levels - give the customer more power, enable them to be a better user of energy themselves, ensure that we’re getting better production, generation, transmission and storage into the system, like Snowy 2.0. Dealing with the gas issue and making sure that Australian gas stays in Australia to deal with our issues, invest in low emissions technologies and make sure that the energy regulations are not pushing prices up. Now, they’re the five things we’re working on as a Government and that’s a comprehensive plan to put pressure down on power prices. Labor’s plan is to just put power prices up.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, why are politicians going to be protected from claims like they’re unfit to raise children but gay parents around Australia can be subjected to claims like that in the postal vote campaign?

TREASURER:

I have no idea what you’re referring to.

QUESTION:

The electoral laws protect politicians from claims like that they’re unfit to raise children and those protections do not apply to gay parents. Is that fair?

TREASURER:

We have discrimination laws in this country and those should be upheld.

QUESTION:

But discrimination laws don’t protect against the sorts of claims [inaudible] made against gay families like that they’re unfit to raise children. Is that going to result in a mature debate to make up minds about same-sex marriage?

TREASURER:

Look, I have great confidence that the mainstream of Australia will conduct themselves on this issue like on any other issue, with respect and integrity and that’s what I anticipate will happen. I regret that at both ends of the discussion I think people will say things that Australians won’t like…

QUESTION:

Will you call that out when people do say those things?

TREASURER:

Look, it’s my job to be Treasurer, I’m not participating in the politics of the plebiscite. The whole reason of having the plebiscite is to ensure that Australians can have the say, not that politicians can have their say. Politicians are always having their say. This is about Australians having their say, so I’m going to leave it to them to make up their own minds and I would encourage them to participate in that discussion in a respectful manner and for all Australians, because that’s how we do things in Australia.

QUESTION:

But is it not on the leadership of the country to make sure that the debate does actually stay respectful?

TREASURER:

I entirely expect that the majority of Australians will do that.

QUESTION:

Energy Australia this morning said that a CET would lower prices. Do you agree?

TREASURER:

What is needed is certainty for investors and additional generation capacity, transmission capacity and storage capacity – all of these sorts of things - a more certain environment around the regulations that deal with that is a key factor and that is something the Government continues to work very hard on and to come on to a landing on that so we can deliver that certainty.

QUESTION:

Did you discuss in yesterday’s meeting the possibility that the energy providers build a low emissions coal-fired power station to help reduce prices? Was that issue discussed?

TREASURER:

We discussed generation, we discussed investment, we discussed a full range of things, but the focus, the overwhelming dominance of the discussion, was what deals they’re offering, what information are they providing, how are you helping customers and not ripping them off? Ok, thanks.