12 June 2019
ANGUS TAYLOR: Afternoon everybody. Before I take questions let me make a couple of comments on some events from today. First of all, on the Queensland Labor Government's cash grab. The Queensland Labor Government has decided to hit one of its most successful industries with an unexpected hike in its royalties. This is a naked cash grab. The LNG industry, the gas export industry, is one of Australia's most successful industries. It's creating tens of thousands of jobs; unprecedented investment; and it's reducing emissions across the globe by substituting gas for coal, where gas produces half the emissions of an equivalent coal generator. This is a government that can never resist the temptation of going after any pile of money. This is straight out of the federal Labor playbook: taxing productive industries to death. It is completely unacceptable. The result will be a negative impact on the regions, on the Australian resources sector, and importantly on investment in one of our most important industries to create jobs in regional Queensland and to keep the price of gas down and the price of electricity down.
Let me now make a couple of comments on John Setka. John Setka leaving the CFMEU is a no-brainer. The question is whether Labor will leave the CFMEU. Anthony Albanese has some hard questions to answer about whether he is prepared to sever ties with the CFMEU. This organisation has been described by the Federal Court as the most recidivist corporate offender in Australian history. It's possible, although it appears at this point not likely, that John Setka may leave the CFMEU but there are many more union thugs where he came from. Right now, CFMEU representatives are facing 79 charges in the courts. They've accumulated already 16 million dollars of fines, and counting. It is time for the Labor party to sever ties with the CFMEU and that includes donations and affiliation.
Now let me make some final comments about Chris Bowen: As you will know, there is a report today that Chris Bowen has- or that the Labor Party has supported Chris Minns with a $5000 payment for his expenses from a $100,000 donation that came a number of years ago that was never declared as a donation. In fact, it was declared as other revenue. And so there are serious questions to answer here. First of all, as other revenue, that had to be a payment for services and goods; what services and goods did that $100,000 payment acquire? Was Chris Bowen aware of the $5000 payment for moving expenses for Chris Minns? Was he aware of the $100,000 donation and where it actually originated from? These are serious questions that Chris Bowen needs to answer. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: Just on John Setka, did you buy his excuse that the only reference to Rosie Batty in that meeting was that he was talking about some laws that some legal people had told him?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, John Setka has committed 59 offences. It is time for John Setka to leave the CFMEU; but more importantly, it is time - or as importantly - it is time for Labor to leave the CFMEU.
JOURNALIST: Will you be accepting the crossbencher's demands for either One Nation's demand for a new coal-fired power station or Centre Alliance's demands for a reserve of Australia's gas?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well we've been very clear: we want to see lower energy prices in this country. One way of achieving that is to have more supply coming into the market. Now, we've sent a very clear signal to the big energy companies. We want to see the wholesale electricity price move below $70 a megawatt hour. We have 13 projects that we're evaluating right now to put more supply and competition into the market and we will do what is necessary to get to a sensible, a fair price, a fair wholesale price, in the electricity market. Now, there's 13 projects we're working our way through. Of those, there's a mix of gas, coal and hydro, and we will continue to work those through. On top of that, we of course are proposing to reintroduce to the Parliament a bill for serious competition reforms that will ensure that the energy companies do the right thing. It will be- it's a bill, the big stick bill, which prohibits unacceptable anti-competitive behaviour - market manipulation, lack of transparency in the wholesale market. These are conducts that are unacceptable that have led to hikes in electricity prices. And we look forward to introducing those to the Parliament. We look forward to having the support from the crossbenches as well, importantly, of Labor, that has already opposed that legislation 14 times to give a fairer deal for Australians on electricity prices.
JOURNALIST: Why does the responsibility for emissions reductions sit with Energy and not Environment?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Oh well this is a decision by the Prime Minister about the portfolio. But look, it's very clear that we need to make sure that we have a coherent energy policy and a coherent emissions policy, and we do. We have laid out in the lead up- we have laid out.
JOURNALIST: So what is policy for…? What is your strategy for…?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well I'm just saying that.
JOURNALIST: Beyond energy, though? Outside energy for reducing emissions?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I'm trying to answer that question and you keep interrupting. Before the election, the Department told us in December last year that we needed to find 328 million tonnes of abatement. Now we have laid out to the last tonne how we're going to achieve those emissions reductions. We have a target and a plan. Labor only ever had a target; they never had a plan.
JOURNALIST: You keep telling us that you have the plan to the last tonne. So why won't you release that? What is the plan?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We have [laughs].
JOURNALIST: No, but across all sectors outside energy?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I have just given a speech where I laid out to the last tonne where those 328 million tonnes are coming from. And the Prime Minister gave that same presentation of those same numbers in Melbourne before the election. So we've been very clear: 102 million tonnes from the Climate Solutions Fund; 67 million tonnes from energy efficiency initiatives; another 100 million tonnes from technology improvements. We have laid this out to the last tonne and I've laid it out again this morning. We've been very, very clear. We have a target with a plan right across the economy, every part of the economy: industry, gas, as well of course as business and the energy efficiency initiatives that business can play a role in achieving; and electricity, where we're seeing significant reductions in emissions occurring right now.
JOURNALIST: What will you do if the international community decides that Kyoto carryover credits don't count towards the Paris target?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well we've been very clear about this. We have exceeded our targets for Kyoto in 2012 and also we expect to in 2020 by 367 million tonnes. Now, the result of that is there is less CO2 equivalent in the atmosphere because of Australia's actions. And as a result of that, we have decided that we will use that carryover, as we have with Kyoto, as we have with Kyoto. And I note that the UK has made a similar decision.
JOURNALIST: But is there no plan B? Is there no plan B if you're not allowed to freeride on past success?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I'll take another question over here.
JOURNALIST: Minister, why won't the Government outline whether it supports a joint Parliamentary Committee into press freedoms?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Into?
JOURNALIST: Press freedoms.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, this is a matter that's been dealt with by the Prime Minister on a number of occasions. I'll leave the comments to him.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree that pensioners will struggle to pay their energy bills, particularly over winter? And do you support a return of the energy supplement for pensioners?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well of course, we will see a significant reduction in electricity prices on 1 July for the most vulnerable Australians. From 1 July, the Default Market Offer will come into place. This is a price cap on Australians who are on a standing offer. Now, that's a significant reduction for many Australians and small businesses that are not in a position to negotiate a better price. And those standing offers have crept up. It's been a loyalty tax on Australians in the worst position to be able to negotiate a better price. Now on top of that, from 1 July, every market, every electricity market across Australia, will see a single reference price against which all offers must be measured. And that means the confusion that we've seen in the market where it's been impossible to compare two different offers, because they're both benchmarked against a different reference price, will be gone. There will be no better time than now to make the call to get a better deal and that's whether you're a pensioner or another vulnerable Australian; a small business or many others. This is an extraordinary opportunity for Australians to pick up the phone, make the call and get their electricity prices down. And if they can't, they will see lower prices through these price caps.
JOURNALIST: Have you included the 13 energy projects that are on the table as part of the emissions reductions projections or will they create [inaudible] …
ANGUS TAYLOR: So the 13 projects that are on the table, the average emissions intensity of those are well below the emissions intensity of the current electricity grid. So we're very confident we can reach our emissions reductions targets with some of those projects proceeding.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] power prices but also lowering emissions. Are you now willing to start a conversation about nuclear energy?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, I think- again, the Prime Minister has made many comments on this in the lead up to- I'm answering your question. The Prime Minister has made many comments on this in the lead up to the election. Right now, it is illegal to build a nuclear power station, and as he just said, when there's a very clear business case that shows the economics of this can work, we're more than willing to consider it.
JOURNALIST: So how will vehicle emission standards in electric vehicles help you achieve the carbon abatement?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, let's be clear about this. What is giving us the best opportunities to reduce emissions is the emergence of new technologies - new technologies reducing the costs of alternative, lower emissions means of producing electricity or transport. But what we're not going to do, what we're not going to do, is tell consumers what to do. This should be driven by consumers, by what's in their interest, and that's why we said in the lead up to the election we're not going to impose draconian targets or draconian standards on vehicles. We're not going to raise the price of a Toyota Hilux or a Ford Ranger by $5000 for the average Australian. These technologies offer great potential but it should be driven, whether it's in transport or in electricity, by consumer needs and ensuring that they get an affordable, reliable outcome for their transport or their electricity.
JOURNALIST: Is it time for the CFMEU to be deregistered? And is the Government is still committed to its Ensuring Integrity Bill?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We are absolutely committed to the Ensuring Integrity Bill. Well look, the right answer on the CFMEU is that Labor severs ties with them today, and they can do it. Anthony Albanese can sever ties with the CFMEU today. Now, we did bring the Ensuring Integrity Bill to the Parliament before the election. Labor has opposed it. We will bring it forward again. And the right answer here is for Labor, for Anthony Albanese, to work with us to put this legislation through the Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Minister, just further to Jono’s question. What does a clear business case regarding nuclear energy mean and if you get a business case are you prepared to look at it?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'm not going to give you a lecture on business cases, but I mean, it's pretty straightforward. I mean, the Prime Minister answered this question on a number of occasions before the election. There needs to be a clear business case.
JOURNALIST: And if there is one, are you prepared to look at changing a law that makes it legal to have nuclear energy?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, as I say, let's not put the cart before the horse. If there's a clear business case, there's a clear business case. Other question.
JOURNALIST: If the international community decides that cannot use the carryover credits, what is the plan B?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we believe that we can and will use the carryover credits. I mean, look …
JOURNALIST: That wasn’t the question.
ANGUS TAYLOR: I'm not going to speculate.
JOURNALIST: So there's no plan B?
ANGUS TAYLOR: No. Well, the plan is clear. We have, as a result of our actions, ensured that there is less carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere than would have been the case. Now, that's 367 million- No, no, let me answer.
JOURNALIST: Okay but it is on the table that the international community may decide that you cannot use the carryover credits. Is there a plan B?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I am answering your question.
JOURNALIST: No, you're telling us the history which we know.
ANGUS TAYLOR: We have exceeded the Kyoto targets- or we expect to exceed the Kyoto targets by 367 million tonnes in 2020. The result of that is there's less carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere. A parts per million lower than they otherwise would be because of the hard actions of Australians. Look, I have watched right across Australia, businesses, farmers, small and large, drive emissions reductions through all sorts of means - energy efficiency initiatives - and the outcome has been extraordinary. I mean, there are a lot of people telling us we weren't going to reach out our Kyoto commitments. Well, we've done it and we've done it…
JOURNALIST: That's not the question. The question is: if the international community says you cannot use those carryover credits, what is the plan B?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well as I said, we, as a result of the hard work of Australian businesses and households over a long period of time; what we've seen is we've exceeded, we've over achieved on our Kyoto targets both in 2012 and in 2020, and the right answer is we should be given credit for those, just as the UK is saying that they should be as well. Any other? Final question.
JOURNALIST: Do you think reserving 50 per cent of Australia's gas for domestic use only is a good idea?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, what I think is that all Australian gas consumers, whether it's large industry, small business, or households, deserve a fair price for gas and that's why we put in place the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism. It is why the ACCC is closely monitoring the pricing of gas. We have seen gas prices in Asia fall in recent times. We want to make sure that domestic gas prices reflect those reductions over time and we want to make sure that that ensures that the jobs that rely on energy-intensive industry right across Australia and rely on low cost electricity prices - well, affordable electricity - continue to prosper into the future. Thank you very much.