WEDNESDAY, 18 OCTOBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Renewable energy, Turnbull’s latest energy policy, Liberal Party division
ANDREW LEIGH, MEMBER FOR FENNER: Good morning, everyone. My name is Andrew Leigh, the federal Member for Fenner and I am delighted to welcome my parliamentary colleagues here to this solar farm; pumping out clean, green renewable energy to power more than 600 homes. This is the way of the future - creating jobs, creating energy and looking after the environment. I'll hand over now to Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, everybody.
Sadly, the much waited for energy policy of Malcolm Turnbull has turned out to be a sad joke for the people of Australia. The best case scenario that Turnbull is promising the people of Australia, is he is promising to give them 50 cents a week back on their power bills at the earliest, in 2020. It is a joke of a policy from an out of touch Malcolm Turnbull that what he thinks is good energy policy is giving people a 50 cent reduction per week in their power bills in three years' time.
Let me be very clear: the Turnbull Government has not done their homework. They couldn't provide any detailed modelling to back up their claims of making any changes. And overnight, the Government has been forced to admit that they can't guarantee indeed any price reduction for Australians.
The only guarantee in this policy is that the way it's currently structured is that it's unlikely to work at all. In return for 50 cents a week in three years' time, they are going to trash renewable energy in Australia. It is correct to say that renewable energy is getting cheaper every day and will continue to do so. It's correct to say that the rest of the world is going in the direction of renewable energy. It's correct to say that Australia has been moving down the renewable energy path and we're seeing the benefits.
But now this Government simply has a policy which just isn't good enough for the Australian people - they haven't done their homework, they can't back up their numbers, and they're only offering Australians, in the best case scenario, somewhere between 50 cents and a little bit more each week in three years' time.
I would now like to get Chris Bowen to talk further about the lack of modelling and the lack of work by the Turnbull Government because as it currently stands, the Turnbull electricity policy is just not good enough for Australians.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much, Bill.
What we saw yesterday was Turnbull energy policy 72.0. The latest attempt, as they go from crisis to crisis with energy policy.
Just a few weeks ago we were told by the Prime Minister a Clean Energy Target quote, unquote: would certainly work. Josh Frydenberg told us it would reduce electricity prices. A few weeks before that, just in the last session, we were told the answer to Australia's energy needs was to keep the Liddell power station open, the coal-fired power station - words that don't utter their lips anymore.
The Prime Minister says it is about engineering and economics, but what it's actually about is personality and politics. Tony Abbott's personality and the politics of his party room.
Now what is particularly concerning is the lack of modelling and thorough analysis which goes with this policy. I've seen more thorough modelling in a high school economics essay than the Government has been able to produce this far.
Particularly scary is the fact that the Treasurer said this morning that the Labor Party has all the information that the Government has. Well, I tell you what, that means the Government has no information, no modelling at their disposal. This is not the fault of the Energy Security Board. They have been given an unrealistic timetable and unrealistic task by the Government, again, which has been driven by the riven factional and leadership politics of the Liberal party room, not by good policy.
The Labor Party has been offering bipartisan support to the Government for months for a proper energy policy, but we are all of a sudden expected to think that this latest thought bubble from the Government, which we were told last week they had a different plan, the week before that a different plan - and all of a sudden this is the one that the Labor Party should automatically back without the modelling and research.
The Labor Party will continue to be the adults in the room in this conversation. We will continue to offer support for good policy, but policy which is supported by the evidence and the facts. And the fact that this government has put this policy together with strings and bandaids, with no modelling, no thorough analysis, as has been confirmed by the Energy Security Board themselves, that they have not had the opportunity to model this policy, that they have now got to go and do the work, well, let's see that work, and if the Government is fair dinkum, they will publicise that work, that analysis for all, not just the Labor Party clearly but for all to be able to see and analyse. We have no evidence that that's the case.
This is a Government which just continues to make it up as it goes along. Energy policy is economic policy and has a huge impact on our competitiveness as a nation, on the cost of living for Australians and this is a Government simply not up to the task.
The Labor Party will continue to be, as I said, the adults in the room, asking for the proper analysis, all the evidence so that Australians can make the decisions based on the facts before them.
I will hand over to Mark.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY: Thank you, Chris, and can I thank Ben for showing us through Mount Majura, this great solar farm here in the ACT, the fourth solar farm that has been built here in Canberra.
Not only yesterday did the Prime Minister turn his back on his own Chief Scientist and a Clean Energy Target that had the support of groups across the community, he also turned his back on the renewable energy industry, presumably in order to get the support of his Coalition party room, he has come up with a policy that will strangle renewable energy investment and jobs in this country, and instead he has embraced Tony Abbott's vision of Australia with a coal-fired power future.
Projects like the one we are at today will simply not be able to get supported if Malcolm Turnbull's policy, in its current form, gets implemented. What Malcolm Turnbull is assuming over the course of the decade from 2020-2030, is that renewable energy growth in this country will be less than half a per cent per year. This is an industry which is booming across the world, creating through billions and billions of dollars of investment, great research and development and thousands and thousands of jobs; jobs that should be here in Australia. We know that if Malcolm Turnbull's policy is implemented in its current form thousands of jobs in the renewable energy industry will be lost and Australia will lose the opportunity of investment in a clean energy future and Labor will not support that element of the design.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Mark, thanks, Chris. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Bill just back to the impact on households, under this plan do you have any specific concerns about households in those states with more ambitious emissions targets?
SHORTEN: No, I have to say that renewable energy all around the world and in Australia is getting cheaper every day. But you don't have to take our word for it, just take the word of Josh Frydenberg. So renewable energy is the new energy which is going to help decrease prices.
What Australian households want, is they want relief from rising prices. Electricity and gas prices go up and up and up and really is this the best that Turnbull's got? A promise of a 50 cent reduction, a 50 cent weekly reduction in three years’ time. You know, if that’s really the best he's got it's just not good enough for Australians.
I think what we need to do is be sending a clear signal that we want to see a greater investment in renewable energy. I mean what more does Labor have to do? We backed what we thought was the best proposal, an Emissions Intensity Scheme, but for the sake of just moving forward and putting downward pressure on prices, we were willing to go with the Chief Scientist’s report of a Clean Energy Target.
But unfortunately, Turnbull failed the leadership test, he can't get over the top of Abbott. So in all the other countries in the world where Tony Abbott's not calling the shots, they're investing in renewable energy but in Australia where Tony Abbott is calling the shots, we're going to go backwards.
This is not good economics, it's not good for climate pollution, it absolutely provides no guarantee for Australians, other than the guarantee this policy won't work.
JOURNALIST: The energy board says it will release the modelling in due course, by holding back support at the moment you're risking holding back savings for households of $155 a year. Will Labor match that or can you do better?
SHORTEN: Well, I'm going to get my colleagues to answer this too but let's just go to the detail we actually have.
We met with the Energy Security Board last night, they confirmed to us, they were all there, there is no modelling. So the Government wants us to sign a blank cheque. The reality is this is not an energy policy, this is not a policy to lower prices, this is a hostage note that Turnbull sent to Abbott in the hope that Abbott would have mercy on Turnbull.
There's no plan here, this is just a series of scenarios, cut and paste of old research and we asked the Energy Board and we've asked the Government, ‘can we at least see whatever homework you have got?’ No.
So either it doesn't exist or they're not going to give it to us but one thing's for sure they're not fair dinkum about household costs and in terms of Labor's plan, we want to see an increased use of renewable energy by 2030. We know that renewable energy is cheap and getting cheaper every day. We're going to help back in encouraging the cheapest forms of energy and energy which is getting cheaper. We want to see that being used more so, logically, we're the party who support renewable energy. We were the party who was willing to back the Chief Scientist's report. Now we've done a lot of the hard work, all Turnbull's trying to do is buy a few more weeks in the job to keep Abbott and his knuckle-draggers from giving him a harder day at the office.
But let's be clear, Turnbull and the Liberal front bench are not thinking about everyday Australian households, they're just thinking about their own survival and this policy just isn't good enough for Australians.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten what would your plan be for the two-thirds of the economy not covered by the NEG?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all- sorry I actually did say I'd let my colleagues speak a little bit more to Jen's point but in terms of our plan there's a number of parts to our plan and Turnbull yesterday wasn't even talking about gas.
Like, he's got no plan for gas. What he needs to do is encourage greater supply of gas and what he also needs to do is to pull the export control trigger so that a country like Australia, which is an energy and gas superpower, is not paying such high prices for gas. That's what he needs to do right now - jobs are on the line, right now.
And you got Turnbull patting himself on the back for a 50 cent weekly reduction in three years’ time. I don't know what planet this fellow lives on. And we're also proposing to give certainty for investment in the future, we do want to see a reduction in pollution levels, we do want to see an encouragement of renewable energy and we would have worked on this Clean Energy Target but the Government keeps changing its mind every day.
JOURNALIST: Labor State Premiers have been accused of bullying members of the ESB for their criticisms of the Government's policy. Have their criticisms been appropriate?
SHORTEN: Turnbull just makes stuff up every day, the guy is just a human blame factory, he just blames everyone. What on earth have the State Labor Premiers got to go on at the moment? What information do they have other than a couple of press releases from Turnbull and Frydenberg and I might get Chris to talk a bit further about that.
BOWEN: Thank you very much and as Bill said it's just patent nonsense from the Government. The Energy Security Board are respected people, they have our respect, they've been fine public servants, they're being given an impossible task by the Government: impossible time frame, impossible task driven by the internal Liberal Party politics. Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg said to the Energy Security Board, we've got a terrible political problem please give us an answer quickly.
And the Energy Security Board have confirmed, there is no modelling, not that they won't release it, it doesn't exist. It hasn't been done. The dog didn't eat the homework, the homework wasn't done in the first place.
Now the Government's got to get it's house in order before they start lecturing us or anybody else and casting around blame - get your house in order, do your homework and then have the conversations.
SHORTEN: Any more questions?
JOURNALIST: Quickly on citizenship, the Government citizenship Bill has to - I think the deadline is tonight for it to pass in the Senate. Do you expect it won't meet that deadline?
SHORTEN: Who knows with this Government, they're all talk and no action. They came up with some proposals which were patently unfair and ridiculous and I don't know, the Government would be best off going back to the drawing board I think, really.
No other questions?
JOURNALIST: Do you expect it to be dropped, and if so, how do you think that reflects on Peter Dutton and his management of that citizenship change Bill?
SHORTEN: Let's face it. Labor and Liberal want to have strong borders. We want to make sure that people smugglers never get back into business, but I think that when the Government came up with this issue about university level language tests I think a lot of ordinary Australians said "what is going on here?" I have a lot of people come to me, working class, middle class people, migrants from backgrounds in English speaking countries, as well as non-English speaking countries and frankly they are appalled. They said "Bill, we've been paying our taxes here for thirty or fourty years. Is Dutton now lifting up the drawbridge and somehow saying I'm less worthwhile as an Australian than someone else?"
I think the Government was more interested in politics than looking after the people and I think the best thing they can do is just quietly drop the proposals and go back - look, here's an idea for Dutton: maybe he should talk to us before he announces this stuff.
JOURNALIST: Just back on energy, do you think that this National Energy Guarantee is an element of an emissions trading scheme, because there is some reports some companies will be able trade emissions permits?
SHORTEN: I might get Mark to answer that in more depth, but I just want to say this about this Government: I think Turnbull has found himself in a bind, he was the champion of climate change, so he's turned his back on everything and I think he knows that people mark him down because one thing people hate, is when they think that politicians are saying what they don't believe.
I think the other bind which the Government is in of course, is that Abbott, although he's on the back bench, seems to be calling the shots. Does anyone really believe that this 50 cent a week reduction in three years’ time is anything more than a band-aid to cover up the wound within the Liberal Party? This guarantee, I don't think it does guarantee lower prices, and in fact, the experts have already said that overnight. In terms of reliability, by trashing the renewable energy sector with their low aspirations, I think that undermines reliability. I think the only guarantee we've got in Turnbull’s policy, is, like so much else this man does, it will unravel. But I might get Mark to talk a bit further about this.
BUTLER: Thanks Bill, again, I think everyone's having difficulty answering these questions because all we have is an eight page letter, and Scott Morrison confirmed this morning, that's all they have. This is policy based on an eight page letter from the Energy Security Board. But I think what we can tell, even from that, is there will inevitably be trading within the market around these obligations if this policy were implemented. Even if there's not an upfront market designed by the Government, there will inevitably be a secondary market that involves pricing of the carbon arrangements that are contained in the emissions reduction arrangements. Now that might not be what Josh Frydenberg and Malcolm Turnbull told the Coalition party room, but I think it's the response that everyone in the industry, at the end of the day, companies will start contracting and trading with each other and a price will emerge on that, which reflects the carbon obligations.
JOURNALIST: And you mentioned the Clean Energy Target as well - Alan Finkel yesterday in fact said that he didn't seem to fussed about the fact it wasn't implemented, saying that - his exact words were: it wasn't even introduced as a clean energy target, it was the need for a credible mechanism. Do you think that the Government has introduced a credible mechanism?
BUTLER: No one knows, because we're working off an eight page letter, and I think Alan Finkel should be congratulated with the work that he did over the last nine months or so, he worked incredibly hard with a very eminent panel, engaging with people across the community, taking advice from experts overseas, and through that process developed a comprehensive plan. Malcolm Turnbull has turned his back on that plan. Yes, at the end of the day Alan Finkel said there needs to be an orderly mechanism to combine climate and energy policy and he then said the Clean Energy Target was the best mechanism. He said it was the mechanism that would deliver the best outcome for households on power prices and Josh Frydenberg reflected that when he did his presentation to the Coalition party room, he a slide that said the Clean Energy Target will lower prices. Malcolm Turnbull reflected that. The problem for us all is that Tony Abbott vetoed it and again Malcolm Turnbull ended up capitulating to Tony Abbott.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on another issue, the National Disability Insurance Agency has announced a pilot of different ways of dealing with clients, meeting them in person, instead of over the phone, there'll be a single point of contact and they're reshaping their online portal as well, are those the sorts of changes you’d like to see put in place as soon as possible?
SHORTEN: Labor are the parents of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We heard the voices of hundreds of thousands of people with profound and severe disabilities and of course their carers, both paid and unpaid, and so we created the National Disability Insurance Scheme; great development. This Government's implementation of it frankly has been really appalling. One of the issues is that people have been telling us that they feel like sometimes they're just treated as a number, and we don't want that, so I am pleased that Labor’s campaigning, along with people in the disability community, along with families and carers, seems to be paying off and the message is getting through that the more face-to-face consultation you have with your service, with the people helping give you advice, the better outcomes we are going to get.
JOURNALIST: Just quickly on a breaking one, if I may, Andrew Wilkie has this morning tabled documents in Parliament about Crown Casino, there are allegations from whistle blowers about tampering with pokies and about turning a blind eye to drug use and domestic violence. Did he give you heads-up about this ahead of time, or do you have any initial reactions on these allegations that he's airing?
SHORTEN: No, I haven't seen the allegations, but from what you have said, they sound very, very serious allegations. There are gambling regulators in Victoria and no doubt they need to investigate it. They are serious allegations and they do deserve to be investigated.