18 October 2017
Transcript - #2017201, 2017

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: National Energy Guarantee to deliver affordable, reliable electricity

TREASURER:

The Government’s National Energy Guarantee picked up the recommendation of the Energy Security Board created by COAG, created by the Premiers, created by the Prime Minister to take what Alan Finkel had done and to recommend to it the way forward. They came back with the way forward, and the way forward is a National Energy Guarantee that delivers on reliability, that delivers on our environmental obligations and commitments that Australians believe in, and it delivers on affordability. Now, this is a plan that has independent support, was independently assessed on the best available evidence and the question I have is why would the Labor party be now opposing it? Alan Finkel supported it. People like the Grattan Institute have supported it. Businesses are saying that it’s delivering the investment certainty that is necessary, that the Labor party said was necessary. This is the way forward for Australian energy. This is the way forward for cheaper electricity for Australian families and for Australian businesses and the investment certainty that’s needed. This is a circuit breaker, this report, and it’s been delivered by an independent Energy Security Board and it’s time for the Labor party to lay down their climate swords and move on to ensure the Australian community can move on.

QUESTION:

How confident are you that Labor state governments will eventually get on board?

TREASURER:

I don’t think Labor state governments will want to do things that make their constituents – the people that live in Queensland, the people that live in Victoria, the people that live in South Australia – pay more for their electricity. Why would they want people to pay more for electricity by putting in place subsidies to the energy sector which are not necessary to meet our environmental obligations? This is the real contribution of what Kerry Schott and the Board have done. They have been able to find the way through which says, you can have your environmental obligations met, you can have more reliable power, you can have more affordable power. Now, this announcement of yesterday – the National Energy Guarantee – sits as a part of a suite of initiatives. There’s a range of things the Government’s doing from better retail deals, ensuring that Australian gas is available for Australian use here, to deal with the regulatory issues, the free kick that was given to poles and wires companies to gold-plate their infrastructure and jack up the prices. We’re acting right across the board which means savings for people now, but it will mean savings for people into the future because we’ll have the investment certainty that will drive supply and deliver lower, more affordable, more sustainable on our environmental commitments, prices than we’ve seen before.

QUESTION:

Regarding the savings, how confident are you around the modelling?

TREASURER:

I’m confident in the integrity and the experience of John Pierce. John Pierce is a former Secretary of the New South Wales Treasury who’s worked for Labor governments. These were people who are heralded by the Labor party when they were appointed and, frankly, the Labor party’s got to stop bullying this committee. The other thing I know about this committee is that they won’t be bullied by anyone. They have their own view. They are very informed on this topic. They know what they’re talking about and they’ve been able to give fairly free and candid advice. It would seem that the free and fearless advice that they’re giving to the Labor party is not going down well with the Labor party because it jars with their ideology, and this has been the problem with this issue. Labor have got to put their ideological swords down on climate to deal with what the Australian public want, and they want more affordable, more reliable energy that meets our environmental obligations, and this does it. Why are they standing in the way of a great plan?

QUESTION:

What if the Labor states don’t get on board does that kill this off?

TREASURER:

If the Labor states play politics with this then they’re doing one thing and one thing only and that is driving up power prices for Australian families and Australian business, putting investment at risk and putting people’s jobs at risk. Now, if the Labor party want to go down that path, they can make that case to the Australian people and I’m sure the Australian people will render their judgement harshly on a Labor party that wants higher electricity prices for needless subsidies.

QUESTION:

Will this cost thousands of jobs in the renewable energy sector though as Labor claims?

TREASURER:

I can’t see why on the basis that what all the evidence points to is that renewable energy industries can stand on their own two feet, they can wash their own face. The prices for renewable energy are becoming more competitive, in fact, even more competitive than the alternatives and that’s what the forward cost curve shows. So that’s why the subsidies are no longer necessary. Why would you be providing subsidies to a sector that is demonstrating by their own performance that they’re no longer necessary? The only people who pay more for that are the Australian public. You’re forcing, effectively, a higher tax on the Australian public to pay subsidies to companies that by their own performance demonstrate they don’t need them. With Alan Finkel backing in this report yesterday with people like Tony Wood from the Grattan Institute backing this in, with the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, all saying clearly that this provides more certainty for investors than other schemes would. To set a carbon tax, an emissions trading scheme, an emissions intensity scheme, all of those schemes mean higher prices and bigger burdens for Australians than what we’re putting forward here and that’s the advice that Kerry Schott and John Pierce and the rest of the team have put forward.

QUESTION:

But following Labor’s reaction, how can investors be confident that this policy would remain in place if Labor were to win the next election?

TREASURER:

Because what the Energy Security Board has recommended and we’ve adopted is that this should be adopted through the COAG process. Once this is adopted through a COAG process, then that bakes it in, and that provides the level of greater certainty that they believe is necessary and we agree. So, I would just simply say to the states and territories, take a breath to take the opportunity to actually work through the issues with the Energy Security Board as we indeed have done, and to listen to them carefully because they’re giving good advice. They’re giving very good advice, these are diligent public servants who have been working on this issue for longer than most, if not everyone in this building who sits in the Parliament. They should talk less and listen more to the Energy Security Board and I think those who live in their states would be well served by taking a breath and dealing with this issue in a methodical way and engaging with the Government because this provides the way forward. This provides the circuit breaker that Australians need and, frankly, are demanding of their politicians at a state and federal level. The Government is waiting there, the Commonwealth Government, the Turnbull Government, is waiting for them to get on board and let’s just get on with it. Thanks.