Interview with Alan Jones 2GB

Transcript

4 September 2018

E&OE

ALAN JONES: It's clear from my correspondence, and it's massive, and my discussions with people after yesterday's interview with Scott Morrison, the new Prime Minister, that two things, the public are not stupid, and you know what I say, they are my best researchers. Two things will make or break the Morrison Government. This election, forget the polls, this election is winnable by the Coalition, but energy and population. Following the interview yesterday with the Prime Minister, I put extracts of it on my Facebook page. Now as I've said, Scott Morrison has got to be given some clean air. The country needs some sensible and responsible leadership and Morrison's a good listener and they need leadership, which listens to the people and understands that they're there to represent the people. I don't want to demean politicians because the bloke I'm about to talk to is a class act. But they are well paid public servants. We elect them, our views must count. Now talking about counting, I've lost count. But I read 244 comments on my Facebook page on the interview yesterday. There were only two issues that those comments referred to: Paris and the rate of migration.

Some of the comments include: Turnbull's man, I'm afraid, committed to Paris. More of the same left wing rubbish.

Another: if he wants to keep Bill out of the top job he'll drop Paris.

Another: why in the hell doesn't he come straight out and say he's pulling out of Paris and stopping subsidies?

Another: if he hasn't ditched Paris for a start, nothing's changed. That's the litmus test.

Another: yes Alan, why hasn't he muscled up and thrown out the Paris rubbish and reinforced that we will not sell out Australia with the United Nations accord on immigration.

Another: why is it so hard to give a straight answer? His new Minister, Melissa Price, is saying they're 100 per cent committed to Paris. She's the Environment Minister.

Another: Morrison could do three things and win the next election. One, tear up Paris. Two, ensure the longevity of HELE stations, that's high efficiency, low emission coal-fired power stations. And three, take Labor to task over the CFMEU and empower the courts.

Now, I'd add one other, I said when I was coaching that to win without risk is to triumph without glory. Well there's a bit of a risk, no risk to me. As of last year, we had 30 countries operating 450 nuclear reactors for electricity generation. Sixty nuclear plants under construction in 15 countries. We've got 40 per cent of the world's uranium reserves and no nuclear energy. It's illegal to operate a nuclear reactor in Australia. Well, here's a challenge for Scott Morrison and Angus Taylor, dismantle this rubbish.

It was in January this year that David Uren wrote in The Australian newspaper: Australians have endured their longest period of falling living standards in more than a quarter of a century, as growth in costs outstripped earnings for the fifth consecutive quarter, leaving households worse off than they were six years ago. And he went on to argue: the big factor in household costs: electricity prices. Back in 2015, before this renewable energy madness overtook us with Kevin Rudd, when South Australia's now blown up Northern coal-fired power station and Victoria's blown up Hazelwood coal-fired power station, were still delivering electricity to the grid, the peak - peak - wholesale price, not average, $49 a megawatt hour. In January this year, that wholesale price was $1000 a megawatt hour, not $49, $1000. Who pays? You pay.

Now, the wholesale price doesn't include by the way the cost of subsidies to renewable energy. Electricity produced by coal goes way back to 1879. Henry Parkes pushed for arc lighting to be installed in Sydney's Garden Palace to allow work to continue at night. And here we are today with this ludicrous situation in 2008, before Rudd introduced this insane Renewable Energy Target, electricity prices in Australia were on a par with those in America. Since then, 2008, electricity prices in America have declined by 5.8 per cent. In Australia, they have increased by more than 100 per cent and we've got record levels of disconnections. Now, if you take two things in America, electricity prices and tax, Trump has reduced both enormously. You try telling me that capital and business aren't going to go to America unless something dramatic is done here. Under Trump, Americans spent 1.3 per cent of their incomes on electricity last year, the smallest share of spending towards electricity at any time ever recorded in America. And here we are with the delusion that we can run a modern economy with subsidised wind power, solar power and big batteries so that electricity has never been less affordable.

Well, the man who's got to grapple with this is a bloke who knows this scene backwards and he is able. But this is his biggest challenge ever. Angus Taylor is the federal Liberal Member for Hume and he is the Energy Minister and this is an inspired choice by Scott Morrison. But he's got the cart in front of him. Minister, good morning.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Good morning Alan.

ALAN JONES: Can I just urge you to note the comments, the overwhelming comments by listeners, following the interview with the Prime Minister yesterday? And just take one: if he wants to keep Bill out of the top job he'll drop Paris, or, why in the hell doesn't he come straight out and say he's pulling out of Paris and stopping subsidies? Now I know this is a difficult question to answer. The punter is saying abandon the Paris climate change targets about emission reductions. Will you do that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well I tell you what Alan, I will allow nothing to get between me and bringing down prices. No distractions, absolutely nothing. We're going to have exactly the same focus on getting down electricity prices that Scott Morrison himself had in 2013 when we got into government in stopping the boats. That means we will ensure that we- whatever we have to do, whatever levers we have to pull, whatever initiatives we have to put in place to get prices down, we'll go after them. That's my job. Scott has made that job, as you heard yesterday, completely unambiguous.

ALAN JONES: What I heard yesterday was his inability to answer that question, but I'll put it another way to you, Angus. I wouldn't give you five cents. You can't comment on this, but I'm saying to my listeners, I wouldn't give you five cents for the South Australian Senator Birmingham, being a South Australian in energy policy is enough for me. Look at the energy mess there. But he made a complete hash of the education sector. Look at the alienation of the Catholic sector. Now he's opened his mouth. It's not his portfolio. Wrecked our education system, telling us that the Morrison Government will honour the Paris agreement and that the government's position on climate change won't change. How does Australia achieve its Paris climate change targets without compelling the transport and agriculture sectors to commit to emissions reductions?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, as you know, Alan, my focus is on the electricity sector. And I'm very confident we won't allow distractions to get between us and getting prices down. Look, that has to be the focus, the Australian people have said that, your listeners are telling you that [indistinct]…

ALAN JONES: [Talks over] But he says they'll honour Paris.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, you know, the truth is in the electricity sector, we're going to get there in a canter, Alan, no matter what we do. So, I don't need to be distracted by all that other stuff…

ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] But if Paris is not going to- but, Angus, if Paris is not going to interfere with electricity prices, then we just say, well, get rid of Paris, it's not going to…

ANGUS TAYLOR: [Interrupts] That's a matter- I'm not going to pre-empt the discussions that happen in private with [indistinct]…

ALAN JONES: [Talks over] But it's costing you out there. It's a simple thing, this is the political challenge you face. Conquer this and this election is winnable for you.

ANGUS TAYLOR: I understand your point but I've got a practical challenge in front of me, not a political one. My practical challenge is to get electricity prices down. And I can tell you nothing is going to get in my way. Frankly the biggest issue in my way right now in getting electricity prices down is making sure the big energy companies stop the big rip offs. I mean, we saw when Hazelwood went out of the market, we saw bids from generators whose costs hadn't gone up - not a dollar - double or more what they were asking for in the electricity market. And we all paid for it. Now, we've got to stop those rip offs and we've got to make sure we back new investment and competition into the market. [Indistinct]…

ALAN JONES: [Talks over] Now, hang on. Stop, stop, stop. Stop, Angus, Angus, sorry, Angus, I mean, let me just- I'm not flattering you here, I mean, this bloke's a very smart man. But hang on, just supposing you're the business man and you want to invest in coal-fired power, are you seriously telling me you would invest in coal-fired power when one of your competitors, renewable energy, is getting $3.6 billion in subsidies this year?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, as you know, Alan, those subsidies will phase out in the next few years [indistinct]…

ALAN JONES: [Talks over] Well, hang on that's the next few years. No one's going to put their money up.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, as you know, I have had a strong view about those subsidies for many years…

ALAN JONES: [Talks over] I know.

ANGUS TAYLOR: …The good news is they come to an end - the increases in targets come to an end in about a year's time. And we will not get in the way of those subsidies disappearing. Now, they need to. Most importantly though, we've got to stop this process whereby we're losing our baseload, our reliable power to intermittent power. And the result of that - we saw it with Hazelwood, I mean, it was very clear when Hazelwood shut, the big energy companies pushed up their prices, their costs hadn't changed, they pushed up their prices to more than double. We've got to make sure that supply stays in the market and we get new supply coming into the market. Now we've said we'd do two things that have never been committed to by a government before. The first is we would back - we would underwrite new reliable low-cost generation if we need to, to get that supply. [Indistinct]…

ALAN JONES: [Talks over] Okay. Stop, stop, stop there. Just clarify that, can you clarify that? Woo, woo, woo, that's a high- low emission, high efficiency low emission coal-fired power station. Will…

ANGUS TAYLOR: [Interrupts] Well, that's a good candidate [indistinct]…

ALAN JONES: [Talks over] Right, 2.2 billion, would you be recommending to the government, 2.2 billion - which is less than the renewable subsidies of 3.6 - 2.2 billion to get the thing off the ground? Because it's five to midnight, Angus.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, I completely understand that, Alan. And I've come in at five to midnight. I wish I'd come in a little earlier but I've come in at five to midnight. And we will underwrite reliable power that's going to keep the lights on and bring down prices, we've been very clear about [indistinct]…

ALAN JONES: [Talks over] Okay, righto. So, you're going to underwrite it, underwrite reliable power. So, are you going to order AGL to divest themselves of the Liddell Power Station, so it will be kept open?

ANGUS TAYLOR: So, you've come to my second point. This is something we said about a week ago that we would do that has not been done before. If we need to, we'll establish divestment powers. We will say to the big energy companies, if you're not prepared to keep that reliable power - fair dinkum power as the Prime Minister likes to call it - in the system, then we'll force you to divest it. Now, not something any of us want to have to do but at the end of the day, what we've seen - and we saw this with Hazelwood - is unacceptable behaviour by these companies and we're going to take it on, Alan. We're going to take it head on. You know, I've worked in this sector, so I know it well. I understand the behaviour that is going on. It isn't acceptable - we are going to challenge it. I'm hopeful that the companies will now do the right thing because we're going to put the heat on them. If they don't, we'll act.

ALAN JONES: Right. Well, now, we don't need 10 pages of policy, do we? Isn't it true to say that all we need is to have what we had pre-Rudd and the Renewable Energy Target? And I argued against this from day one, and with respect, so did you. We just need available, reliable and affordable. Wind isn't, solar isn't, batteries aren't, coal is. Now, are we going to get into the marketplace and say, now, here we go, we're going to back to when we were good and we had the cheapest electricity in the world?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, you know and I know that coal has an extremely important role to play in this market, holding the coal in and depending on the circumstances and what's available, getting new coal in. Those things are things we have to do if we are to keep that reliable affordable power that you just talked about. So, it has- there's no question…

ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] Well, it's illegal to operate a nuclear reactor in Australia. For God's sake, we've got 40 per cent of the world's uranium reserves, shouldn't we have nuclear energy?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well look, Alan, I understand your point about that. It's not going to help me in the next year or two because as you know, it takes time to build these things. But [indistinct]…

ALAN JONES: [Talks over] Well, it takes time to build a coal-fired power station too.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, that's true but we can get one of those up or more importantly hold them in much more quickly and have an impact in the shorter term.

ALAN JONES: See, 1600 coal-fired power plants being planned or under construction in 62 countries around the world, we are providing the coal so that those countries can have cheap electricity and our people can't. What do you say to these poor people out here who in every state across Australia have had their electricity cut off because they can't afford the bill, what do you say to them?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I would say that you will see us backing investment in reliable baseload power in a way that hasn't happened in that time period. As you described, over the last 10 years or so, there's been too much intermittent power come into the system, we've lost a lot of our reliable baseload power, that has to be addressed.

ALAN JONES: Well, that has to- can only be addressed- I mean, you're talking intermittent, solar's intermittent, wind's intermittent, batteries are intermittent. I mean, basically- and why are we going to then subsidise these people this year 3.6 billion, why?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, look, the real issue we've got…

ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] I'll tell you what, you're busy I'm sure. I hope- would you have another five minutes after 8.40?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah…

ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] Please. Okay. I'll come back to you. I'll go to the news because there's a couple of other things we must ask you while you're here. Very grateful. I'll talk to you after the news, which is next.

[Unrelated content - news break]

ALAN JONES: I'm talking to Angus Taylor, who's the federal Liberal Member for the seat of Hume, and I will just make- and you heard him, very impressive fellow. I should just say this, he may not thank me for saying it. But you've got people like Photios and co. in New South Wales, these factional grubs who seem determined to blow up the Liberal Party, and this man has been one of their targets. Just imagine ripping this bloke out of the Federal Parliament. It's unbelievable. Some of these people have got to be run out of town. However, that's not what we're talking about today.

Angus, thank you for coming back. I'm sorry to be repetitive here. Can I just come back to this rotten renewable energy rubbish that was pioneered by Kevin Rudd. We currently have a 17 per cent renewable energy commitment. Now, if electricity is only 30 per cent of the emissions problem, and agriculture is 14, and motor vehicles 16, are we going to be taxing agriculture and motor vehicles to reach these emission targets?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, my focus is on electricity, Alan, so you'd have to ask other ministers about the approach elsewhere. But look, I've got to tell you that I won't let anything get between me and bringing down electricity prices. I am more than happy for you and your listeners to hold me to account on that. So, if I start talking about just any distraction that's getting in the way between me and lower electricity prices, you'll hold me to account and you should, that's my …

ALAN JONES: [Talks over] Well what time frame are you talking about, you see? The CEO of Quenos, which is a manufacturing company, Stephen Bell, said recently- you know him? I just don't see how large industrial companies can continue with the sort of cost increases we've sustained without having to take action. He said: there is a very real prospect that some businesses might not be able to remain viable. The prices we're seeing for gas and electricity are not sustainable.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, and look, I agree with him. He's absolutely right. We saw…

ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] But we continue to feed this renewable energy into the grid. So that is making the price of electricity higher than it should be.

ANGUS TAYLOR: That's right. So if you go back through the history of this, as you know, Labor set a target of 41 terawatt hours. We brought it down under Tony Abbott to 33. You and I both argued that it should have come down further. We got it to 33. We had to get it through the parliament. So that was the biggest barrier because the other side weren't prepared to support us taking it down any further than that. We got it down to 33 and that target concludes from about a year from now. Now, the damage has been done. This is the bad news, is the damage has been done. We now have to find a way of getting that fair dinkum, that reliable baseload power back into the system at a low cost. Now that [indistinct].

ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] But if the stuff coming into the grid is dear and the price is inflated by having renewable energy fed into it, my god, you've got a Herculean task.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, but I believe we can do it, Alan. I believe we can do it because we know that the big energy companies hike their prices, as Hazelwood came out and other baseload generated came out. So the job now is to keep everything in that is keeping that price down and bring new investment in. And that means backing that investment and we will do that. We will do that. But it also means …

ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] But I just want to come back to the point. You know this- sorry, Angus, but see, I was reading stuff from the Solar Council last night and the cost of electricity from a solar panel installed in Sydney is about $180 a megawatt hour. Who provides the solar panels? China. So we're subsidising China's solar panels to generate electricity at 180 bucks a megawatt hour to displace coal-fired power which is about 35 bucks a megawatt hour. Now, can you imagine someone in a factory producing goods at $35 a unit and saying: no, no, no, we'll close down that production. We want to produce the stuff at $180 dollars a unit. This is madness.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, and as I say, you and I have argued on this for many years, but our challenge now is clear: we've got to keep that baseload power in the system and get more back in. And as I say, we're prepared to use levers, big sticks, that we haven't used in the past in order to do that. That is crucial for us now and we will do it.

ALAN JONES: Well, 1600 coal-fired power stations being built in 62 countries around the world, how many here?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, and you make a good point. I mean, we are exporting high quality coal from this country. It actually reduces emissions in the world because the alternative is dirtier coal and we're not using as much of it [indistinct].

ALAN JONES: [Interrupts] But surely if coal is that awful thing that emits carbon dioxide which is going to destroy the world, then surely what we should do therefore, is to stop all our exports of coal because we're only polluting the world.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well and we're not going to do that. I mean, look, our most important industries, whether it's agriculture, or coal, or gas exports, I mean these are crucial for the future of this country. We're not going to cut those off. In fact, they reduce global emissions because they're more efficient in this country than anywhere else. So Alan, I know there is a fringe, a political fringe, that want to shut all of this stuff down. We're not going to do it. We certainly won't be the party that goes down that course. And you would destroy the Australian economy overnight if you did it.

ALAN JONES: Good on you. National economic suicide note we called it, didn't we?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Absolutely.

ALAN JONES: Thank you Angus for your time. We must talk regularly to keep our listeners up to date on the progress that you're making.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks Alan.

ALAN JONES: You're most welcome.

Topic: 
Minister for Energy