FRIDAY, 23 NOVEMBER 2018
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for more renewable energy and cheaper power; national security Victorian Election, Decentralisation.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Welcome everyone to Brunswick. I'd like to thank Fiona and Susie for inviting Lily D’Ambrosio, the State Minister for Energy, and myself into their house to look at how a combination of solar panels and solar batteries have given this family the opportunity to have lower power prices, to have more reliable energy and to help join the fight against climate change.
Yesterday, federal Labor announced our exciting new vision for energy in Australia. More renewables equalling lower prices, more jobs and of course taking overdue action in the fight against climate change. One of the proposals that Labor has put forward, which is very similar to what the Andrews Government is doing, is encouraging the take up of solar battery systems for householders so that they can reduce their power prices. You know in the next few weeks two million households will soon have solar panels on their rooftop.
The next inevitable step in the development of the fight against climate change, and more reliable energy and lower power prices for families is the advent of solar batteries. Batteries are getting smaller, they're getting more efficient and of course they're getting cheaper. We've seen here the remarkable story that this family is able to monitor their power usage, they are able to store the solar power of the day when they need it at night and when there is other challenges to the energy system. Last summer there were of course very hot days in Melbourne, and unlike other houses in this street who suffered from a blackout because this family had solar panels and batteries to store the energy, they were able to sail through the exigencies of extreme weather conditions very comfortably and of course, what we see here is that they're now largely self-reliant when it comes to power.
Labor is backing more renewables, we're backing technology, we're backing giving a better deal to consumers and we're backing giving a better deal to our kids by tackling climate change now and not leaving a worse problem for our kids to inherit. Before I hand over to the State Minister for Energy I'd just like to make a brief comment about Dan Andrews and state Labor, their election is tomorrow.
Dan Andrews says what he does and he does what he says. What he has done is he has really delivered for Victoria in the last four years. A perfect example of this of course, is the level crossing removal program which has seen 29 level crossings removed which has improved travel times, safety and made it a lot easier for people to get around the city, to get around Melbourne.
Also, Dan Andrews wants to get on with making sure we have better hospitals and schools. So he's a man who delivers, he's supporting better hospitals and schools, he's made the case why he should be re-elected tomorrow and I strongly encourage all Victorians to get behind Dan Andrews and Labor.
I'd like to hand over to Lily D’Ambrosio to talk about what the Andrews Government is doing to make sure that we have lower prices for consumers and businesses and of course, a better climate change future.
LILY D'AMBROSIO, VICTORIAN MINISTER FOR ENERGY: Well thank you so much Bill. I'm very, very delighted to be here to support the plan of Bill and his team to deliver a renewable energy future, lower power bills and take the action that Australians and Victorians want in terms of climate change.
The announcement reinforces that renewable energy is the way of the future. We saw a federal government that literally blew itself up and was not able to deliver a national energy policy.
Bill and his team of course, have delivered, have announced a policy that will be a game changer when it comes to renewable energy, tackling climate change and lowering bills of families. It is a proposal that very much complements our own government here in Victoria, our own policy agenda, a strong policy agenda of putting power back in the hands of Victorian families and businesses.
We're putting solar panels on more than 700,000 roofs of Victorian families and that includes renters. We are also backing 10,000 battery installations in homes where they already have solar power plants on their roof. And of course, what that is about is ensuring that Victorians can confidently go into the future knowing that they've got power to control their power bills. Putting power back in their hands, putting money back in their pocket through lower bills, doing something about climate change that families can control. Power back in their hands, money back in their pockets and out of the pockets of the large corporations that the Coalition opposition here in Victoria sold our assets to.
The only ones who've made a profit from electricity and gas assets over the last few years have been the big corporations who've taken money out of the hands of ordinary, hardworking Victorian families and businesses. That changes under a Labor Government in Victoria and I'm very delighted to give our support to Bill and his team's plan, a plan for the future, a plan that is about renewable energy.
SHORTEN: Thanks Lilly. Are there any questions on this or any other matters?
JOURNALIST: The scheme has been compared to the Pink Batts scheme and it's been criticised for the expense is that fair?
SHORTEN: It's just complete rubbish. What's Mr Morrison got against new technology? This is a government - the Morrison government is a government eagerly awaiting the arrival of the 20th century, not the 21st century.
Nearly two million households have solar panels. Mr Morrison is saying that this is a bad idea that they have batteries as well to store the solar power that they generate off their roofs. This government is capable of surprising us with some of their misjudgements and missteps but that Mr Morrison has now decided to be against the spread of new technology. I mean the first motorcars were expensive when they were bought, the first solar panels when they were installed were expensive and the first mobile phones were expensive and clunky but the point about it is that solar batteries like these other forms of technology as the market increases the price goes down and the utility and the efficiency goes up.
There are two million Australian households who have solar panels on their roof. That's at least two million customers who want to have solar batteries so they can get the benefit of solar. If Mr Morrison wants to be the man who stands in between Australians getting cheaper power bills, better technology and fighting climate change well then, he's perhaps sillier on these matters than I previously thought.
In terms of the safety roll out, Labor has said that we only want batteries installed by licensed electricians who then have specialist training, there will be an accreditation council. I am very committed to making sure we have proper health and safety. But the idea that Mr Morrison finds it all too hard and that he just wants to have a few coal-fired power stations in other locations and that's the only way people will get their energy is just simply backward looking.
JOURNALIST: On the citizenship issue does Labor believe the government's proposal to strengthen capacity to strip citizenship from convicted terrorists are proportionate?
SHORTEN: We'll go and have a look at the laws the security of Australians is fundamental but let's not pretend that history just started yesterday when the government's proposed this law. Since the Coalition has been in, on 15 different occasions they've demanded that we've got to change our security laws. They keep coming back to the well and saying we've got to toughen our laws. Labor has been completely cooperative but what we've had is a parliamentary process where when the government proposes new laws we scrutinise them - and that's both sides of politics - scrutinise the proposed changes to make sure there are not unintended consequences or in fact that what is proposed will actually work.
It's an interesting point that government - this government who said every time it's all got to be rushed, there have been 300 amendments proposed to their 15 laws all of which have been accepted by the government. When you're dealing with terrorists and when you're dealing with national security and you're dealing with the rights of all Australians, rushing laws does not automatically make for good laws or effective laws. The worst thing that could happen is that the Government could propose a rushed law, someone is able to overturn it or undermine it and then the terrorists get off.
I'm about having proper solutions which keep Australians safe not just trying to get a soundbite on the nightly news. Let's get it right and for the record Labor and Liberal have worked together and I commend the government that we have been able to work together. So we will take a mature and sensible approach, our priority is to defend the Australian way of life and to make sure that Australians are safe, we'll get this right.
JOURNALIST: If a vote came to the House in the next couple of weeks are you saying that it wouldn't be enough time to support such a Bill?
SHORTEN: We've got to see the detail. What I'm not going to do is engage in hypotheticals but I will point to my record as Labor leader. Mr Morrison is my third Liberal Prime Minister, we've seen national security laws proposed by Tony Abbott, by Malcolm Turnbull, by Scott Morrison. You know, what we want to look at is are the laws going to keep Australians safe, will the laws actually work?
Now if we tick those boxes, if we make sure that they're effective, they keep Australians safe well then we'll be up for the sensible debate. So this argument that somehow there's a big divide between the two major parties, there's not. We've got an established process, and I just say to Mr Morrison, he's a relatively new Prime Minister, we've got an established process that I did with both of your predecessors Mr Morrison. We’ve got this Parliamentary Committee - that's what the Parliament is elected to do, scrutinise the laws, make sure there's no defects, no unintended consequences - we'll get this right and we'll help keep Australians safe.
JOURNALIST: Is it appropriate that the government should only have to have reasonable satisfaction a person is eligible for another nation's citizenship to allow Australian citizenship to be taken from them?
SHORTEN: What I'm going to do is - you're asking a question about a proposed law - I'm going to let the Parliament scrutinise it, I'm not going to make national security laws on the back deck of Brunswick. I'm here to talk about excellent batteries. But I want to reassure Australians, and I'm a Melbournian, I've lived here for five decades, I was shocked. I've walked up and down Bourke Street, my kids catch the tram past where that terrible incident happened, that evil incident. We will get the laws right. But what I've also learnt being in Parliament is that if you do a rush job you can sometimes do a botched job. Let's get it right, we've done this 15 times before, we've made 300 agreed amendments. We'll get it right, and I'll work with the Government, we will not be unreasonable. I've got my record - I've worked with Tony Abbott, I've worked with Malcolm Turnbull, I'm sure it can't be too hard to work with Mr Morrison.
JOURNALIST: What is your priority for the final sitting weeks of the Parliamentary year?
SHORTEN: Well I do think that we need to have a good discussion about energy policy. Energy prices are out of control in this country. If you have a look, gas prices for business are terrible. They've gone up and up and up. Electricity prices in Sydney, up 26 per cent under this Government. On average up 19 per cent. We've got a major energy price crisis in this country. Just ask any Australian who gets the bill in the mail or by email - their prices are going up.
We have a major problem with cost of living. Everyone knows that under the Liberals the wages system, wages have just tanked, you're not getting an increase unless you're a big corporate banker. And so we've got low wages growth, and we've got cost of living from health insurance premiums, the gas bills, the electricity bills, it's expensive.
So I think that the Government need to reconsider their opposition to the National Energy Guarantee. Do you know what's ironic? The Liberals, the Government under Mr Turnbull proposed the National Energy Guarantee. Labor said okay, let's work with that. Then now, since they’ve god rid of Mr Turnbull for reasons we still don't know why they did it, now they've walked away from a National Energy Guarantee.
I'd say to Mr Morrison, that energy prices, cost of living - big issue. I also think it's long overdue for us to have national anti-corruption commission. I think it is fundamentally important that politicians, and indeed the Commonwealth Government is not seen to be above the law. I think that we need to have a national anti-corruption commission, or National Integrity Commission, we'll certainly be talking to the Liberals and to the crossbench, I think they will be two very good developments. Action on power prices, and of course action to make sure that confidence in Australian democracy is restored by having an anti-corruption commission.
I also think it's long past the day for Mr Dutton and the Member for Dunkley, Mr Crewther, to have their eligibility to sit in the Parliament analysed by the High Court. A lot of question marks, a lot more questions than answers and I think the Parliament needs to see what we can do about the matter, rather than the Government running a protection racket for people with clouds over their constitutional eligibility.
JOURNALIST: Have you already spoken with the crossbench about those matters, about the federal ICAC and Peter Dutton?
SHORTEN: We've had discussions with the crossbench, but I have to say, I've written to Mr Morrison about an anti-corruption commission. Mind you I wrote to Mr Turnbull, didn't get much mail back from him.
I think, Mr Morrison, if he wants to be a genuinely new broom - I mean, I know he was the Treasurer under Mr Turnbull - but if he wants to genuinely be the new broom he says he is, I think a very good development would be supporting an anti-corruption commission. I don't understand why the Liberal Party of Australia is so determined not to have an anti-corruption commission. I don't think it reflects well on them.
JOURNALIST: The Nationals are proposing to shift the HQ of AMSA to Coffs Harbour - is this a decentralisation idea Labor would support?
SHORTEN: Let's see - we like having government jobs around Australia. Labor's got a plan for instance to have more Centrelink offices around regional Australia. But you've also got to make sure that the particular stacks up. The movement of the pesticide authority to Armidale in New England seems to have had plenty of problems, so we'll have a look at what they're proposing with the Maritime Safety Authority. But sometimes I just think the Government needs to really focus on fundamentals. Having jobs in regional Australia - very important. But what we need to do is make sure we've got proper infrastructure to back it up. One way we could create jobs in regional Australia is backing in subsidies for batteries. Did you know that Australia is going to the major lithium mining country in the world. This is something that Australia is good at and we've got a head start. Let's not blow our head start when it comes to lithium or indeed solar power. We're the sunniest continent in the world, we're the windiest continent. Australia should be a leading super power when it comes to clean power. We've got two million Aussie households already which have solar on the roofs. Why on earth wouldn't we want to start talking about building a battery industry in Australia than simply buying in imported product from overseas.
I'm confident that I'm on the right track when it's backing the new technology of batteries. In fact, one of the reasons why I'm confident is because the Liberal Government in South Australia, they're providing $6,000 subsidies for people to move into solar batteries. So here you've got Mr Morrison and Tony Abbott and the anti-climate change sceptic brigade on one side, but you've got two million Australian households on the other side, you've got every other Australian household who'd love get into solar and get into batteries if they could, and of course you've got the Victorian Government, the Queensland Government, the Federal Labor Opposition and the Liberal Government in South Australia. I just say to Mr Morrison, let's back the science, let's back the consumers, let's back lower prices, let's back handing on a better deal to our kids, let's back more jobs in the regions - I think that's a good regional jobs plan.
JOURNALIST: Just on encryption laws Mr Shorten, the Intelligence and Security Committee are doing an assessment on those laws. Do you think they should have something in place by Christmas?
SHORTEN: That depends what they come back with. Again, you're better off doing the job first time correctly, than having to clean up a botched job. We absolutely want to make sure that we can discover what the terrorists are up to, stop them, put them in jail. Absolutely. We've just got to make sure we get the laws right.
I mean, it is interesting isn't it - 15 times, the Coalition Government said we've got to update the laws. I mean, they're always coming back to update the laws. But thank goodness this Parliamentary Committee which is made up Liberal MPs and Labor MPs, has made necessary amendments which have meant that once we've introduced the laws, they work. I want to do it right the first time, if it takes a little bit more time we will, but we'll be guided by the security agencies and the Parliamentary process, that's why we have a democracy.
JOURNALIST: Back on terror, are you comfortable with convicted terrorists being kept in immigration detention if they can't be deported?
SHORTEN: I want to see convicted terrorists punished. I want to see them punished. That's my view on convicted terrorists - I want them punished. We want them caught, and we want them punished. And we'll work with the Government to do it. I don't know, this Government sort of seems to want to have contest about who is tougher. We've worked with the Government for the last five years. Whoever the Liberals pick as their Prime Minister, my track record is I'll work with them to make Australia safe but when we do it, let's do it properly the first time, rather than botched job rushed and we don't sort it out.
JOURNALIST: Is the Government trying to wedge Labor on terror?
SHORTEN: I hope not. Keeping Australians safe should be above it. The Government wants to talk about that, fair enough. If they've discovered there's flaws in the current system which they're in charge of and they want to fix them up, we'll be partners in fixing up the problems that they've discovered. But I've also got to say we need to reassure Australians that we're working together and we do the job properly. We've got a system, it's not perfect, but the system has been Liberal and Labor work together and we get the right laws. Fifteen different times the Parliamentary Committee has reviewed 15 different laws, they've made 300 amendments all of which have been agreed to. So maybe because there's some new personnel at the top it all seems new, but we've got a system that works and we'll keep doing it right. Thanks everybody.