16 August 2018
Transcript - #2018162, 2018

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: National Energy Guarantee; Enterprise Tax Plan.

QUESTION:

What do you make of these reports that Keith Pitt could be considering resigning from the front bench over the NEG?

TREASURER:

I think there’s a lot of dramatization going on around these discussions at the moment. What the Government is doing, earlier this week we were able to get overwhelming support in the party room to go forward with the National Energy Guarantee that will reduce electricity prices in Australia and that’s what Australians what to see. They want to see lower electricity prices, they want to see more dispatchable power into the system which is what the National Energy Guarantee does, in particular, and to ensure that that power is sustainable for the future and for future generations. Australians want all of those things and that’s what the National Energy Guarantee does. The ACCC report adds to that National Energy Guarantee and addresses some pretty big issues – which is what are being raised by colleagues and we’re working through those issues with those colleagues to have some concerns and reservations as you’d expect the Government to do. We’re doing that in a very respectful and I think in a very informed way and a very adult way and we’ll continue to do that.

QUESTION:

What would be your message to Keith Pitt and anyone else who might have similar views?

TREASURER:

The Government is engaging constructively and positively with colleagues who have some reservations about a couple of issues and we’ll work those through and those reservations relate to ensuring, as the ACCC report recommends, that we make sure the big power companies don’t  take customers for a ride and don’t have prices higher than they need to be and I think there is a lot of wisdom in that. I don’t think they’re suggesting that we go back to 1970s economic policy on price controls, that’s what I was referring to yesterday. No one I think is suggesting that sort of thing. For the last 27 years and more these have been important changes in our economy which have delivered great prosperity so I don’t think anybody wants to go back to that, but what they think they are saying, and what all members of the Coalition want to see is the big energy companies don’t take customers for a ride and there are good recommendations to that end for those who want to invest in new power generation in Australia that there aren’t obstacles for them to be able to do that, and the ACCC again has excellent recommendations there, and we’ve shown a lot of support for those. So, these are issues I think can be very much addressed and at the end of the day of course the Australian Government is always going to be sovereign over what it decides its emissions reductions targets are going to be. It’s been what it has been at 26 per cent, when it was first established by Prime Minister Abbott, and that hasn’t changed. That’s frankly going to be met in a canter; that is going to be achieved. What is going to be the real, I think, game changing shift in the national energy guarantee, is that the requirements for reliability in power supply and the contracting of the power supply, that will put some durability in the energy market which means the lights stay on and the prices come down. 

QUESTION:

Do you concede though you will need Labor’s support to get this through the lower house as it stands.

TREASURER:

Well we should have Labor’s support. That’s the point. Why is the Labor Party not supporting the National Energy Guarantee? That’s the real question. They should support it. Why are they not doing it? Because Bill Shorten wants to play politics with people’s power prices. We have a policy to bring them down. Bill Shorten wants to play politics in the parliament for his own political ends, so we see once again, this guy isn’t about Australian consumers. He is not about mums and dads, he is not about householders. Bill Shorten is about Bill Shorten and that’s what we’re seeing on display here. What we’ll do is we’ll continue to work the issue, get the right outcome, ensure that goes through the Parliament so we are in a position to reduce people’s electricity prices, so we’ll keep working with our colleagues on the issues that they’ve raised and I’m sure we’ll able to resolve those. 

QUESTION:

Families are really struggling at the moment in terms of relatively modest wage rises and wage growth, how can reassure those at home that you’re doing everything possible?

TREASURER:

Well what we’ve seen over the last year is while the improvements have been modest, in wages, we turned the corner about a year ago. That’s what the Reserve Bank Governor has said as well. So we’re seeing that wage growth improve, but I agree it’s at very modest levels. The way that you see it continue to improve is not by putting further costs on the people who are employing them. You can’t go and invest more, you can’t go and pay better wages if you’re paying more money to the Government, or if you’re paying higher electricity prices. So that’s why our plans to actually relieve the tax burden on all businesses to ensure that we have lower electricity prices, can put businesses in a better position to be able to support better wages.

QUESTION:

Are you still planning to push ahead with the signature tax policy?

TREASURER:

Yes we are, we’re keeping our promise. At the last election we promised to have more competitive business taxes and we intend to keep that promise. We’ve kept all of our promises from the last election. We’re almost three years though the term. We’re keeping our promises, when we say we intend to do something, then we do everything we can to achieve that. We’ve been very successful in keeping our promises.

QUESTION:

Can you guarantee if it doesn’t pass the senate this time around you will still keep this policy?

TREASURER:

I can guarantee that we’re putting it into the Senate, and we’ll take that to the vote and let’s see what happens then.

QUESTION:

So there is no guarantee you’ll take it to the next election?

TREASURER:

You don’t get to put the words in my mouth, I’ve said that we’re putting it to the Senate and we’re going to seek to pass our full promise that we made at the last election and let’s see what happens in the Senate. Ok, thanks very much.