28 August 2017
Transcript - #2017161, 2017

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: The Turnbull Government’s comprehensive plan to put downward pressure on electricity prices for households and businesses; Bill Shorten’s unfunded attempt at WA GST catch-up; Bill Shorten’s latest demonstration of weakness on border protection

TREASURER:

This week the Government has got a very strong focus on energy. The Prime Minister today will be at Snowy and we’ve got a major project which we’ve got really starting to move, drillings are already happening down there and this project is going to deliver some 5,000 jobs in the construction phase and it’s all part of the Turnbull Government’s plan to put downward pressure on energy prices. Making sure gas stays in Australia when it’s needed to keep prices down; ensuring that we get a better deal for Australian households and businesses out of energy retailers; making sure our regulations are efficient and don’t drive prices up like they have in the past; putting the investment into new generation, storage and other technologies that can also boost the supply that’s needed in the market. And, finally, investing in low emissions technologies as well. So quite clearly, five key points that we’re acting on and today we’re focusing on quite a number of those, particularly with the meeting with the energy retailers again later this week.

QUESTION:

New figures are suggesting that a large number of Australians are paying more for electricity than they should be. Why have you been letting that happen for so long? Why have they been allowed to get away with that?

TREASURER:

Well, we’re acting on it. That’s exactly what we’re doing, that’s why we’ve called them in, that’s why we’re making these changes.

QUESTION:

What else can you do, Treasurer?

TREASURER:

I think the program that I’ve just outlined to you is very comprehensive. It’s doing everything from a long-term supply of energy to the deal that you should be getting right now, and everything in between. This is a comprehensive plan to put downward pressure on electricity prices for households and for businesses. The alternative to this is we’re seeing the one-off actions now that we’ve seen in Victoria with a 40 per cent renewable energy target which is just going to drive the prices up more and Bill Shorten indulging all of those sorts of policies that are driven by ideology, not engineering, and will only make prices higher for consumers, not lower.

QUESTION:

But do these figures suggest that you’ve hauled in these electricity chiefs a couple of weeks ago and nothing’s changed?

TREASURER:

No, these figures show that we’re right to act and that we are acting.

QUESTION:

But you did have them in three weeks ago, is there evidence that they have done nothing? Why…

TREASURER:

No, no, they’re actually getting on with the things that we talked about three weeks ago. That includes starting writing off to people who are going to be coming off their benefit period, their discount period, to ensure that they get a better understanding of the better deal that they could be on. So, those wheels are already in motion and there is a much broader agenda that we’re pursuing with the retailers in the energy sector and we’ll be picking up on those issues. After the last meeting, I said that complexity and inertia were the big energy companies’ best friends when it came to their profits and their prices. Now, we need to reset the balance on that and make sure that our customers, households, families, small businesses are better equipped, more empowered to get the best possible deal for their power prices.

QUESTION:

Has Bill Shorten now outbid you on the GST and I know that you’ve criticised it because it’s not a change to the overarching arithmetic but isn’t the beauty of it that you’re not short-changing other states? If you put in separate funding, you’re not taking money off New South Wales…

TREASURER:

We’ve had top-up arrangements in Western Australia for three years to ensure that we stop the drop on the GST share for Western Australia and we’ve funded that and the money’s in the bank. Bill Shorten’s just made another promise like Wayne Swan made promises about setting up funds and Kevin Rudd made promises about doing the same thing in Western Australia and none of it ever happened. So they’ve just got no form on it. They’ve got a promise and no money for it. We’ve actually provided top-up payments up until now but understood that that was no long-term solution. You need to look at the fundamentals of how this thing works and that’s what we’re doing, that’s what we’ve been doing now for some time. We’re working to a solution on that. Bill Shorten is not acting in Western Australia’s interests – as always, he’s just got a fix for his own interests.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, which way will you be voting in the same-sex marriage survey?

TREASURER:

No.

QUESTION:

You’ll be voting no?

TREASURER:

Yes.

QUESTION:

Will you be campaigning?

TREASURER:

I’ve got a pretty important job to do as Treasurer and I’m focused on the nation’s finances and I’m focused on our economy and how much Australians are earning. People in my electorate know my views on this, they’ve known it for a long time, I’ve always held the same view, but I respect the views of everybody else. As an advocate for ensuring that all Australians have their say, it’s time for them to have their say.

QUESTION:

And what’s the reason for you voting no? Can you explain to us your rationale for that?

TREASURER:

I’ve set that down in my own electorate over many years.

QUESTION:

So you don’t have a problem with some of these senior Liberals – past and present…

TREASURER:

Everybody will take their own choices about how they’re engaging with this, I’m very focused on the job I’ve got to do.

QUESTION:

Is it appropriate for the Federal President to be coming out and campaigning…

TREASURER:

I’m not making any comment on that.

QUESTION:

Is it appropriate though?

TREASURER:

I’m not making any comment.

QUESTION:

What’s your reaction to gangland widow, Roberta Williams, wanting to run in Bill Shorten’s seat?

TREASURER:

I haven’t seen those reports, I couldn’t comment on that.

QUESTION:

Labor and the Greens have indicated they may try to block the Government’s move to cut welfare payments to around 100 asylum seekers living in Australia. Any response to that?

TREASURER:

What we’ve seen from Bill Shorten on this latest episode on border protection is that he just doesn’t get it. Labor never, ever gets it. This is a targeted change to around about less than 70 people who gamed the system to get to Australia, now are trying to lock themselves out of being sent back to Nauru or Manus, and to stay here at taxpayers’ expense and taxpayer funded housing and Bill Shorten thinks that’s ok. He just doesn’t get it, that’s why Labor can never, ever be trusted on border protection. I know firsthand the calls you have to make to keep borders strong in Australia and I can assure you, he can’t do it. He doesn’t get it.

Thanks very much.