26 August 2019
ANGUS TAYLOR: It's fantastic to be here to talk about an issue close to my heart, which is how to help small businesses across Australia to be more successful, to be more prosperous, to employ more people. We know small business is the backbone of our economy. Now, central to that is making sure they have a fair deal for energy and what we've announced today is the Business Energy Advisory Program which is focused on helping small businesses to switch and save - to switch providers, to switch plans to get the best possible plan for their business. We know there are savings available for a typical small businesses as much as $3000 a year and more for bigger businesses. So this is a very significant saving up for grabs. What we've announced in this program is two parts: a consultation service - a live consultation service where businesses could get advice on how they can get their energy costs down; but importantly, also a benchmarking service so they can check out their costs and see if they're in line with others in their industry and their geography. This is a fantastic way for businesses to work out how best to reduce their energy costs, to take action. It sits alongside other important reforms like price caps we've imposed from 1 July, as well as the reference price which makes it much easier for small businesses and households to be able to get the best possible offer available as simply as possible.
JOURNALIST: Can you explain which small businesses could eligible for this program?
ANGUS TAYLOR: It's any business which employs people between six and 20, but look, all businesses can get access also to the benchmarking data. It's based on Xero data, Xero the accounting platform, been pulled together by AlphaBeta. This is a very, very important data set because it helps small businesses benchmark themselves against others in their industry and in their region.
JOURNALIST: When will prices start coming down for consumers?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, they are coming down. We've seen the CPI of the last two quarters, we've seen reductions in electricity prices. We've seen from 1 July the imposition of price caps. Forward prices for wholesale electricity are coming off. But the crucial thing here is this - we need to ensure that our existing coal and gas-fired generators are not closed prematurely. We need to make sure that there's more dispatchable supply, 24/7, on demand supply of electricity coming into the market. That is why we are underwriting a new generation into the marketplace, and of course, we need to make sure that that power is reliable, which is why from 2 July, we brought in the Retailer Reliability Obligation which ensures that retailers have to have the capacity in place years ahead of time to drive down prices and to keep the lights on.
JOURNALIST: Is this program in direct response to frustrations from small businesses community about the lack of consistency in energy policy?
ANGUS TAYLOR: No, it's about helping small businesses to get a better deal, to get a fair deal on energy. We know that in some cases, small businesses have been charged way too much for their electricity. We need to help to make sure that they get a fair deal, and that's exactly what this program does. It gives them the information they need to switch and save - to switch to the best possible plan, the best possible provider, for their needs.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] announce to investigate strategic gas reserves in Australia?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we've announced a whole raft of reforms several weeks ago focused on ensuring that businesses and households get a fair deal on gas. Now the single most important thing that can happen here on top of the reforms we've announced is that state governments free up the restrictions that they've imposed on exploration and development of gas in their states. The worst of those states is Victoria where we have a complete moratorium on onshore gas exploration and development. No matter what the technology, it's all banned. That needs to come to an end, and that's absolutely crucial to get prices down in the southern states of Australia.
JOURNALIST: And what will your message be to households if they experience more blackouts?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Sorry, if they experience?
JOURNALIST: More blackouts.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, there are real risks emerging this summer, particularly in Victoria. We've seen similar risks in South Australia and the South Australian Government has been addressing it. They also face risks this summer. The simple message is this: state governments have to work with us alongside the policies, the many policies we've announced to ensure that we have reliable, affordable power. They have to do the right thing too. That means three things - first of all, they have to avoid premature closure of gas and coal-fired power stations, secondly, they have to release the bans on gas, and thirdly, they shouldn't pursue reckless targets that force intermittent power into their system prematurely, before they've got the back-up and storage they need to drive prices down and to keep the lights on in.
JOURNALIST: Are the states to take all the responsibility because there is no clear policy in Canberra?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well the policy is clear: we want lower prices, and we're going to achieve our 26 per cent emission reduction target in the National Electricity Market eight or nine years ahead of time. We've put in place the Retailer Reliability Obligation, underwriting new generation and we're working closely with collaborative state governments to avoid premature closure of our coal and gas-fired power stations. Such as with the New South Wales Government where we've established the Liddell Taskforce. So these policies are very clear. We want more affordable, reliable electricity as we reach our emissions targets. We need state governments though to do the right thing, and that is absolutely crucial if all Australians are to get a fair deal on power and we can prevent the risks that we face this summer in Victoria.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] financial interests in meeting with Department of Environment and Energy environmental about critically endangered grasslands in a company that was under investigation for poisoning them?
ANGUS TAYLOR: My financial interests have been disclosed in accordance with the rules. That's what I'm required to do and that's what I've done.
JOURNALIST: Some of Australia's top infrastructure companies have agreed to cut their carbon emissions by 100 per cent by 2030. Is that sort of a realistic target for [inaudible] to support?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We're on track to achieve our 26 per cent emission reduction targets under the Paris obligations. We'll reach our 2020 Kyoto targets as we reached our 2012 Kyoto targets well ahead of what was required under those international obligations. Now if private sector organisations want to pursue more, they're free to do so. The thing that is crucial is that they do so without raising the costs of basic services for all Australians. It's crucial that if they're going to pursue additional renewable energy for instance - that that's firming, that's energy that is there when it's needed and they're not imposing costs on other consumers. But private sector organisations are free to pursue whatever targets they want to pursue.