19 December 2018
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well good afternoon. It's great to be here with my friend and colleague Matt Canavan, the Minister for Resources. We're delighted with the outcomes from the day. We achieved everything we wanted to from the COAG Energy Council, and in particular, we've agreed on implementation of the Retailer Reliability Obligation from 1 July next year. This is a crucial reform for every Australian. What it means is retailers now are accountable to ensure there's enough supply in the market years ahead of time to keep prices down and to keep the lights on and to keep Australians in work in those energy-intensive industries that are so crucial to our economy. It was agreed today that we will go forward with it, 1 July, next year. This is an extremely important development and we're very pleased that we got the support of the COAG Energy Council today. That initiative will ensure that we have enough supply in the market, but it will sit alongside other important initiatives from the federal Government. Our underwriting mechanism to attract new dispatchable, 24/7 supply - reliable supply - into the market to keep prices down and keep the lights on alongside our legislation, which will hold the energy companies to account to ensure they avoid anti-competitive conduct, avoid taking generation out of the market and hiking the prices, as we've seen in the past. So these initiatives, in combination, will deliver a fairer price for all Australians and they sit alongside our work on reducing standing offers. For 1 January, we'll see reduction of up to 15 per cent of Australians - the most vulnerable Australians - were not able to get in and negotiate a new deal every year. Alongside that, today, it was agreed to proceed- to progress their work on the comparison price, investments in work on transmission and other related important initiatives that will keep prices down and keep the lights on for all Australians. So I'll now get Matt to say a few words.
MATT CANAVAN: Thanks very much, Angus. There was a productive meeting today, a very important meeting for all Australians. We must ensure that our electricity supplies are reliable and become more affordable than they currently are. Now, there were two meetings this week in Adelaide. One meeting across the road, the Labor Party progressed policies to increase our emission reduction unilaterally - ahead of any other country in the world - that would put at risk thousands of jobs in Australia and push- put upward pressure - put power prices up. Now, we're not on that side. In this meeting today, we were focused on getting power prices down, and that is why the decisions of the COAG today to get behind the Reliability Obligation, reference prices, and the decisions the Commonwealth Government has taken to encourage investment in our electricity generation network will help lower power prices. It's a simple equation. If we get more supply of power we'll have lower prices. And we're on the side of more supply; on the side of lower prices, and that is our number one focus as a Government. And I applaud Angus, for the work he's doing to push through this. There is some opposition, some people want higher power prices out there, but we're on the side of having lower power prices for people, to lower power bills in your letterbox. When you get envelopes we want you to have a nice surprise, not a bill shock.
JOURNALIST: Minister, it sounds like you stared down a revolt from the states on the emissions obligation. Did you shut down debate?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we got a good outcome; we didn't get distracted. And we won't get distracted. We have a very clear focus: get prices down, keep the lights on, and ensure that all Australians - those hard working families, those small businesses, those big businesses that employ so many Australians in energy-intensive industries - get a fair deal on their electricity prices. Our country is built on having a fair deal on energy. It has been for a long, long time. It's crucial to stay focused on this - we stayed focused on it today and we got the outcome we were looking for.
JOURNALIST: Are you disappointed that New South Wales appears to be doing Bill Shorten's bidding, having a policy that very much mirrors his?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, let me tell you about Bill Shorten's policy: he's focused on a reckless target that will be a wrecking ball through the economy - the Business Council has told us this and we hear it from small businesspeople, big businesspeople, resources companies, families - all of them understand that Bill Shorten's policy for a 45 per cent emissions reduction target will be a wrecking ball through the economy and a wrecking ball through household budgets. That's his policy…
JOURNALIST: Is that what New South Wales' policy is as well?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I tell you: our policy is clear; we won't be distracted by anyone.
JOURNALIST: The Minerals Council said today that New South Wales' policy would cause a recession in New South Wales, your home state. Are you fearful that that could happen?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I tell you what will cause a recession, it's higher electricity prices, and Bill Shorten's 45 per cent emissions reduction target will deliver exactly that. That's why we're focused on getting prices down, it's why we're focused on the retailer reliability obligation - making sure years ahead of time there's enough supply in the market. Look, it's true that in recent years we've seen supply taken out of the market with very little warning - we can't afford to see that again. What we've agreed on today here in Adelaide is that that won't happen again.
JOURNALIST: Are you avoiding talking about emissions?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we are going to reach our 26 per cent emissions reduction target in a canter. We saw numbers this week, we've put out numbers this week that tell us that by 2023, we will be well ahead of our target, which is set for 2030. This is seven years ahead of time. Seven years ahead of time. So, we're in good shape on emissions reduction. It's hard work that's being done - we're seeing a vast increase in household solar on people's roofs. This is having a big impact and it means we now have the breathing space to get prices down and to keep the lights on.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] two very angry ministers - one of them's a Liberal. They're angry at you. How would you describe the mood in that room?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'd describe my mood as focused. Focused. And what we want to do is we want to focus on the things that Australians care about - it is lower electricity prices, it is keeping the lights on, it's ensuring that we take advantage of the situation we have now, where we're well ahead of our emission reduction targets, and get prices down. It means keeping the big energy companies, holding them to account. Not just for bringing down prices - which we expect them to do and from 1 January we're seeing that for standing offer customers - but also in ensuring there's enough supply coming into the market years ahead of time to ensure that over the long term businesses can invest with confidence that they're going to get a fair deal.
JOURNALIST: On that default price, the AEMC has said that it will drive up power prices by 30 per cent. Why are you pushing ahead with it?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we're seeing power prices coming down right now from our pressure, which we've applied on the big energy companies to get a better deal for all Australians.
JOURNALIST: It's a different policy, though.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, it's the same- we've been very clear what our policy is. We want to see the loyalty tax gone. We want to see the situation gone where Australians who aren't able to negotiate a price each year because they're too busy or just aren't in a position to do it, get a fairer deal. That loyalty tax has got to go. We're seeing the first positive moves from 1 January - 10 to 15 per cent price reductions across many markets - and we want to see more from that. That's our focus. We also want to see confusion gone. When you get your bill, it is confusing - that's the truth. And that confusion must go. We expect the energy companies to do the right thing on this and we're seeing good first signs, but we want to see more.
JOURNALIST: Have New South Wales Liberals got it completely wrong?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'll tell you what we got right in that room today: we got right a focus on lower prices while we keep the lights on. That was the outcome. And it's outcomes- I have spent my career focusing on outcomes. We can all get obsessed with the process, but it's the outcomes that matter to every Australian - lower prices, more supply, keeping the lights on, a fairer deal. It's the outcomes I'll fight for every day, and that's a robust process. You have to be prepared to fight to keep good outcomes and that's exactly what's happening here.
JOURNALIST: It seems like New South Wales' most important priority today is something you don't even want to talk about. Is New South Wales' priorities wrong?
ANGUS TAYLOR: What priority were you talking about?
JOURNALIST: The emissions obligation that you seem to not want to talk about at all.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'm telling you: our emissions target is 26 per cent by 2030; we'll be at 28 per cent reductions by 2023. We are way ahead of target here. We're going to achieve it. And what that means is we can focus on getting prices down while we keep the lights on, keeping jobs in those crucial sectors - aluminium smelting; irrigators; right across our manufacturing sector; cafes; delicatessens - you name it - refrigerated abattoirs, refrigerated businesses. All of them rely on low energy prices and we're focused on getting those prices down and making sure Australians get a fair deal. Any other questions? Thank you.