19 December 2018
TICKY FULLERTON: Now to somebody who I suppose could've been part of the National Party but ended up very much a Liberal. Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor was today seeking to secure an agreement on the retailer reliability obligation at the COAG meeting. But his task was made all the much harder today, given his Liberal state colleague, from the largest state actually - New South Wales, has criticised him ahead of those talks. How did it all play out? Well I'm delighted to say Minister for Energy Angus Taylor joins me live from Adelaide, just before he gets on the plane. Angus Taylor, thank you so much for joining me. Now, can I put to you first that your Shadow, Mark Butler said today that Scott Morrison stands completely isolated in is refusal to implement the NEG, opposed by every single business group in the nation, now deserted by even his own New South Wales Liberal Party colleagues.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well Ticky, today, we got the retailer reliability obligation agreed, which has been a long time coming, this is a major reform. It's a crucial part of what we've been seeking to do for a long time. And what it means in practice is we'll get lower prices because we'll have supply planned, invested well ahead of time. Ensuring that as supply leaves the market, it's replaced. Ensuring that every Australian can get a fair deal on their energy prices. Of course, the other part of this discussion that Mark Butler was talking about is emission reductions. And we released numbers earlier this week showing that we'll reach our 26 per cent emission reduction target which is scheduled for 2030. We're going to reach it in the early 2020's, 2022, 2023. So we are delivering the outcomes and what really country in energy policy is not mechanisms, is not bureaucracy, not processes, it's outcomes and we're delivering, that's what this is all about.
TICKY FULLERTON: Well as you say, the emissions that you believe you'll get to these targets in a canter the government is constantly saying. But I mean, I put it to you that you're one-eyed, if not two-eyed and furiously so on down, down prices and reliability for Australians. And you're driving that and you're moving forward on that. But hasn't the by-election in Wentworth and hasn't the election results in Victoria not led to a rethink within the [inaudible] because it certainly has in the state government of New South Wales, that actually, Australians care about an obligation on the emission side. Not just - okay, we'll get there anyway, but no, committing to something as being part of a trilemma, not a dilemma.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well we're committed. We're committed. It's really very simple. We have a 26 per cent target and we're going to reach it. And we're not just going to reach it, and we're not just going to reach it in 2030, which is when it's scheduled for. We're going to reach it in the early 2020s Ticky. And this is really essential. As Liberals, we believe that you go after the outcomes and you only make an intervention if you're not going to reach it. Now we know we're going to reach it and there's a reason for that, is we've got a 250 per cent increase in solar and wind coming into the national electricity market in the next three years. And what that means is we're going to reach out emissions reductions…
TICKY FULLERTON: But that obligation is not only with- that obligation, that's really only within the energy sector. I mean, I think what is being talked about now, which would happen with an NEG, is an obligation across all sectors. Now, as Mark Butler did say…
ANGUS TAYLOR: No, no, that's not right.
TICKY FULLERTON: Is that not right?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well the focus for me, the focus for COAG, the focus for the policies in electricity over recent years has been the national electricity market. That's been the focus and we're going to reach the target. And as I say, we're going to reach it way ahead of time and what it means - and this is crucial - we've got a huge increase, about 11 gigawatts of new solar and wind coming into the system in the next three years or so. And now the crucial point here is that you have to make sure when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine, you've got 24/7 reliable, on demand capacity there available. That puts downward pressure on prices and it keeps the lights on. So that's the focus. We know we can do it because we're doing so well on our emissions.
TICKY FULLERTON: But I put it to you, Minister- yes. Well, in your portfolio, this is all going swimmingly at the moment, but the environment or the energy- the environment portfolio, which is now separate to yours, that is challenged, and especially when it comes to the electorate at the moment. And clearly, the New South Wales Government is looking at this and is looking at what their voters are saying, and their voters care about getting emissions much more up the scale. Now, do you not think that this is going to be a big factor come this general election?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, the Minister for Energy from New South Wales was talking about electricity, and as you rightly point out, it's going swimmingly. This is the point. Now, the challenge in electricity is not emissions, because we're doing extremely well on that. The challenge is driving prices down and keeping the lights on. The business community is increasingly aware of this. We saw the Business Council come out just a few moments ago, praising the outcome from the COAG Energy Council today, getting the retailer reliability obligation through. That'll put…
TICKY FULLERTON: Yeah. The business community is also behind the NEG, and Don Harwin specifically said- he said the federal government has lost touch and the way it's going at the moment is actually threatening business investment.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we've got $15 billion in investment happening right now in electricity - absolutely unprecedented - and the challenge is to make sure that's balanced, Ticky, because alongside the variable renewable energy - solar and wind - you've got to have energy that's dispatchable; that's on demand; that's 24/7. And we're focused on keeping that supply- that balance in the supply and we're doing that a number of ways - the retailer reliability obligation; we're underwriting new capacity into the market; and we are saying to the big energy companies: we are going to do everything in our power to stop you from withdrawing capacity on short notice without replacing it, and that is absolutely essential to make sure every Australian gets a fair deal. And importantly, those big energy using industries - the manufacturing industry, abattoirs, smelters - making sure that they all have access to the low cost energy that keeps Australians in work in those industries and keeps those traditional industries that have been the backbone of Australia alive and prosperous.
TICKY FULLERTON: Minister, where are we on price? You said the Energy Minister of Victoria, Lily D'Ambrosio, got her sort of factors confused when she was talking about default or reference prices. What is going on? What's been agreed in COAG? And have you got a cap?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we've been very clear. What we want to see is their loyalty tax gone. This is the high prices that are being charged to Australians who don't have time to go out and negotiate a contract each year with their energy retailer. They're getting slugged and they have been particularly so in recent years, particularly in some states like Victoria. Now, we want to see that loyalty tax gone. We're not troubled about how it's done. We just want to see the outcome. We also want to see much easier comparison for customers.
TICKY FULLERTON: Did you get support for that within COAG?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Absolutely. I think everyone understands that the loyalty tax needs to go. That's well-understood. And Victoria, to their credit, is doing the right thing, is making the right steps, to make that happen. But we're also seeing the energy companies doing the right thing. On 1 January, we're going to see cuts of up to 15 per cent for customers on standing offers - half a million Australians and small businesses are going to be better as a result of that. So, we're seeing the right steps but we need also to drive prices down by putting extra supply in the market and retaining that crucial supply that's there 24/7 to keep the lights on and keep prices down.
TICKY FULLERTON: Finally, Minister, what are you going to do if the New South Wales state government and indeed other Labor states, they all get together - a bit like what happened with the Treasury ministers last year - and they go outside the federal government, outside COAG, and say: well, look, if you're not going to cooperate, this is what the people want, and we're just going to do this deal without you on emissions?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, there's no need to, Ticky. I mean, we're going to reach our 26 per cent emission reduction target. That's a strong target by international standards, and Australia's a country that's growing faster than most. It's got high population growth and so it's a very aggressive target and we're going to reach it way ahead of time. So, there's no need for that to happen. But I tell you we're not going to get distracted. We are very focused on getting prices down, keeping the lights on, while we know we can reach those emission obligations, and we're not going to get distracted. We didn't get distracted today. We got the outcomes we wanted and we're going to keep chasing and working hard and fighting hard for those outcomes that we want.
TICKY FULLERTON: Minister, I really appreciate you stopping there on your way to the plane. I know you're very busy so thank you so much.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Ticky.