12 September 2017
Transcript - #2017180, 2017

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: Liddell power station; the Turnbull Government’s comprehensive plan to put downward pressure on electricity prices for households and businesses; Labor’s no-coal coalition led by ‘No Coal Joel’

QUESTION:

So if AGL goes to its board and it needs compensation to keep Liddell open, will the Government be open to that?

TREASURER:

These are all hypotheticals. We’ve got a process and what the Government is doing is taking action now to deal with a problem that’s going to emerge five years from now. This is the proactive approach we’re taking to energy policy. We’ve got a clear plan to deal with putting downward pressure on rising energy prices and this is all part of that – ensuring that we have these conversations now about ensuring that we don’t see an existing coal-fired power station shut down and actually lead to higher prices for people in the future. So we’re taking those steps now, we’re having those discussions now and, in about 90 days, AGL will come back with potentially an alternative plan and certainly a response to the idea of ensuring that we keep the plant open or that indeed they sell it to another party. But it’s one of many things we’re doing right across the spectrum – whether it’s ensuring that we keep gas here in Australia to deal with our own energy needs or through to getting better deals out of energy companies, dealing with the very messy regulation on this thing which can drive up prices, investments in Snowy, putting in place a new investment framework which is critical to give the investment certainty. Now, the alternative to that plan is a 45 per cent emissions reduction target, that’s more than double what we’ve got currently that we committed to overseas. That is one big electricity tax from Labor and you’ve got to compare these alternatives. Our alternative is to ensure we keep the pressure down with an all of the above approach with everything from existing coal-fired assets through to renewables technology, storage, it’s the full fleet, it’s the full spectrum. Labor wants to shut coal out and shut coal down and shut down coal jobs, particularly in places like the Hunter Valley. They want to put up the white flag on that and their policy is driven by emojis, not economics.

QUESTION:

Would you consider financial assistance for AGL or the new buyer?

TREASURER:

All of that is very premature. We’ll deal with the issue over the next 90 days in terms of what they’re looking at but I don’t foresee any issues there at this present time.

QUESTION:

Given that AGL looks unlikely to keep this open, do you think that finding a new buyer is the right way to go or do you hope that there is enough dispatchable power that they prioritise that as well?

TREASURER:

There certainly would be other buyers available to take on Liddell if they were given the opportunity to take it on and that is obviously a very realistic alternative and that is something we certainly wouldn’t stand in the way of. But we’re not going to put the white flag up on Liddell power station or ensuring that we sweat our existing coal-fired assets for longer. The Labor party have certainly decided to do that. That’s for them to explain to those people who work in that sector, particularly in the Hunter Valley. It’s for us to get on with the job of delivering more affordable, more secure, more dispatchable, more reliable energy and also meet our targets.

QUESTION:

How do you think the company has conducted itself during this process? Your colleague said that Andy Vesey is speaking with a forked tongue here.

TREASURER:

It’s not about Andy Vesey. It’s about what people are paying for their power. I’m not interested in the personalities of this debate as much as any other debate. What matters is actually getting the right outcomes for Australians to be able to deal with rising power prices right across the country and for small businesses as well. That’s why we’re focused on this. It isn’t about personalities, it’s about getting the solutions. We’ve identified a problem in this summer coming up which is why we’re working on the reserve policy to deal with those pressures over summer. But five years from now we’ve also got another problem. So that’s why we’re looking ahead. That’s why we’ve taken the steps on Snowy 2.0 to make sure there is that storage capability which no one’s been looking at prior to Malcolm Turnbull raising that at the beginning of this year. He’s the one who has actually put storage on the agenda and is taking action now when it comes to delivering that storage. Now, that will turn up down the track and that’s one of the things that AGL acknowledged yesterday, that it would be another important addition to capacity in the market.

Thank you.