5 August 2019
JOURNALIST: Minister, why are we asking the United States to lend us fuel?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We need to be in a position where we can deal with any disruption to the oil supply chain around us that might impact the price of fuel or the availability of fuel for consumers and for industry, and to do that, we've been conducting a liquid fuel security review. Based on the early findings, we've decided to begin negotiations with the United States to ensure that we have a strategic reserve in place for circumstances that could emerge, for scenarios that are unfavourable to Australia. This is a sensible, low cost way of going about this. What we're not going to do, is what Labor proposed to do at the last election, which is a policy which would cost $10-$20 billion and would be paid for by fuel consumers and taxpayers. That's what we're not going to do. Our strategic reserve working with the United States is a sensible policy, as is modernisation of the oil stock holding mechanism, which we're also proposing we pursue with the IEA.
JOURNALIST: So this arrangement that we're sort of working out with the Trump Administration, would you be able to disclose exactly how that's going to work? Is the access going to be there for us when we need it?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We're not going to negotiate in public. What we are going to do is make sure that we get a good outcome for Australian oil users - that's every day families, small businesses and industry that are heavy users of oil - we get a good deal for them and a good deal for taxpayers, and that means avoiding what Labor took to the last election, which was a high cost solution to the problem. We are not going to go down that path.
JOURNALIST: So in terms of the deal, what are the costs that Australians are going to have to pay for this, as opposed, to say, freezing our own stocks by buying in the oil? What's the sort of the nature of the deal going to look like?
ANGUS TAYLOR: The whole purpose of going down this path is to avoid having to pay excessive costs, which is what Labor proposed. I mean, under Labor's proposal, it was likely that every consumer was going to have to pay more at the bowser. Well, we're not going to do that. We can solve this problem, make sure we can avoid the worst impacts of disruptions to the oil industry globally and at the same time, avoid an impasse on taxpayers, and that's exactly what we're focused on here. We'll continue our discussions with the United States, which we began some time back.
JOURNALIST: Okay. How have the United States reacted to your requests for oil? Have they been happy to provide a response?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Positive. There's good reasons for us to work together. Look, we are great strategic partners. We've worked together on so many things over such a long period of time. There is goodwill between us and the United States on many fronts and this is one of them.
JOURNALIST: And how long do you expect it will be before these agreements are in place?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We'll work as quickly as we can. We'll work as quickly as we can but what we're seeking to do is make sure we get a good deal for Australian energy users, oil users, and of course for the taxpayer.
JOURNALIST: So, how urgent is this issue? Are we in danger of running out of fuel soon or is there a possibility that something could happen and we could find ourselves, I guess, in trouble?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we think, on the proper definition of oil stocks, we currently have 92 days, but we've got to be in a position where if there is disruption, if there are things that happen that are not helpful to the affordability and availability of oil, that we have a solution to that problem, and that's why we're working as quickly as possible to make sure we get this deal negotiated with the United States.
JOURNALIST: Okay. You said under the current definition, you have 92 days but the reports say that we have less than that. Would you able to clarify sort of how you came up with that figure?
ANGUS TAYLOR: These numbers are set by a treaty which was set back in the 1970s. It's now badly out-dated. The world has moved on. In particular, for instance, oil on water, on the sea, is not counted, and yet, oil moving from the United States to Australia, for instance, is very available in the event of a typical disruption. There needs to be modernisation of the stock holding mechanisms and the stock holding accounting, and we are pushing forward with those negotiations with the IEA.
JOURNALIST: So how much oil actually is in Australia at the moment?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, as I said, according to modernised definitions, there's 92 days. But we have to be ready for every scenario and that is the key. We have to be ready for every scenario. There is disruption in the oil supply chain from time to time. We first saw it in the early 70s, which is why this treaty went into place and it's why we consider this to be an important issue for the Government.
JOURNALIST: So the figure that The Sydney Morning Herald came up with - this 28 days of actual oil in Australia - do you dispute that?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Yes.That's not true under the current IEA definition and is certainly not true under a modernised definition.
JOURNALIST: Okay. So of course Labor took the idea of a fuel reserve to an election. Your party has categorically ruled that out. Are you going to reconsider that at all?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Labor want higher costs of energy, they want higher cost of electricity, higher cost of gas and higher costs of oil. That's what they took to the last election. They were the policies that Shorten and the Shadow Energy Minister were not prepared to front up on. They weren't prepared to answer questions on those because they knew their policies would raise the price of energy for Australians. That's what we're not going to do. We went to the election with a very clear resolve to make sure we got a fair deal for all Australians on energy and that includes oil.
JOURNALIST: So if there is a crisis, something does happen, what guarantees are currently in place? What guarantees are you seeking to put in place?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well we work within the IEA now, that's not new. What we're proposing to do, is modernise how we deliver on those obligations and the way those obligations are set and that's exactly what we have we put forward today.
JOURNALIST: Okay. And as part of this deal there's been talk, been floated that there's the possibility that we might send naval support to the US in the Gulf. Is that something you can comment on?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We're dealing with this separately. Look this is an issue that is being worked through with the United States on its own merits.
JOURNALIST: Okay. Let's move now to nuclear energy. There have already been two inquiries into nuclear energy in Australia. Why is the Government now launching another one?
ANGUS TAYLOR: The last inquiry was over a decade ago - but let me make clear, we have a policy right now which is a moratorium on nuclear generation in this country and there's no plan to change that. Over the long term we need to look for low emission, affordable sources of base load generation. Now there's new emerging technologies whether it's, hydrogen, or lithium, or uranium that have the potential to solve that problem. It would be irresponsible of the government not to consider through the Parliament those opportunities. We're doing a national hydrogen strategy and I've referred this nuclear issue to a parliamentary inquiry. They will look at the prerequisites necessary for nuclear - both economic, safety, as well as environmental and that will be the focus. It's timely to do it, given there's been significant changes in nuclear technologies in recent years, significant changes since the last inquiry was done over a decade ago.
JOURNALIST: So Labor has said that this is sort of starting to kowtow to the right of the party and they've asked you to lay out if there is any plans for a potential nuclear power plant. What do you say to people who say that this is just appealing to the right of the party who want nuclear power to shore up the baseline supply?
ANGUS TAYLOR: It's typical of Labor to run a scare campaign now and they're not even prepared to actually have a sensible discussion about these issues. That's modern Labor, it has no agenda and just runs scare campaigns, and they put the cart well before the horse. Look the fundamental question here is; is there an economic case and safety, environmental case for modern nuclear technologies over the long term in Australia? That's a sensible question for the Parliament to be considering. I've referred to that. Look none of this will proceed without widespread community support, and right now there's a moratorium and there's no plan to change that but it is a sensible question to ask as a long term perspective on how we're actually going to deliver affordable, reliable and sustainable energy Australia needs.
JOURNALIST: There's been a bit of talk about modular nuclear reactors. Does that make it feasible? Is nuclear power going to be a part of the long term solution to our energy problems?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well the technology changes in recent years make this an issue worth revisiting. That's the point. Is there a plan to change the policy? No. Would it require widespread community support? Of course it would. As well as support in the Parliament because there's a moratorium that would need to change as a result of a parliamentary vote. So, look, it's one of many issues we need to consider as we look at the long term future baseload affordable energy in this country. We're absolutely committed to that. Labor's not even interested in asking the question because they just play politics with everything.