Doorstop Parliament House, Canberra

Transcript

21 October 2019

E&OE

ANGUS TAYLOR: Last week, we saw Labor backing the Greens’ motion on a climate emergency and they’re planning to support a motion along those lines again today. Labor want to make a big song and dance about the climate emergency, but they haven't committed to a single policy in this area since the last election. At the last election, they couldn't answer questions on the costs and the impacts of those policies. Many, many times they were asked, and they were unable to answer the questions, and they are in chaos right now about their own policies. So they’re left with empty symbolism, hollow gestures. Labor is not committing to anything meaningful. Meanwhile, we're getting on with the job of real and meaningful action. Now, the Victorian Premier himself has said that this is not about words and motions, this is about actions. We don't agree with the Victorian Premier much, but we agree with him on this one. We're getting on with the job of real actions, 26 per cent is a strong target. We’ve delivered on our targets in the past. We’ll deliver on our 2020 target, and we’ll deliver on our 2030 target because this is about real action. Meanwhile, Labor are unwilling to define what they mean by a climate emergency. Well, others have done it for them, and others have said this means no coal, no oil, no gas. Labor needs to come clean about what their policies are if they’re going to put these sorts of motions forward to the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Pretty significant day in terms of media freedoms today. Minister, your views on the current situation in regards to the release of information to journalists and to the public?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Press freedom is an enormously important issue, there’s no doubt about that. We have to get the balance right. There are national security considerations, and getting that balance right will be an ongoing and constant debate, and it should be because this is an enormously important issue. That's why we've given it to the Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security - one of the most prominent committees in the Parliament - to work through this issue and make sure that we are getting the balance right. And as we've always said, there is strong evidence and strong arguments for change. We are open to making those changes.

JOURNALIST: Have you ever sought to have information not released under Freedom of Information laws?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, as I say, this is about getting the balance right between national security considerations, and we have to do that as a government on a regular basis. That's an important issue.

JOURNALIST: [Interrupts] So that’s a yes, you have?

ANGUS TAYLOR: But this is about balance. There’s no, there is no single easy answer to these issues. They are important and press freedom is a priority.

JOURNALIST: What is your message to whistle-blowers who might be reluctant to come forward with evidence of corruption from in government departments as a result of the recent raids et cetera?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well I think I've answered this question – this is about getting the balance right and making sure we have a regulatory framework where we do protect press freedoms, because they are enormously important. There are circumstances where national security needs to be taken into account. And this is a matter of getting that balance right at all times, including in those circumstances.

JOURNALIST: Should whistle-blowers come forward?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well as I say, this is about getting the balance right, and we have to have a regulatory framework that gets that balance right.

JOURNALIST: Is there a case of double standards thought? If you're wanting whistle-blowers to come forward but at the same time, you're not wanting information released to the public about your own cases - is that a double standard?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, it’s about balance. It's about balance-

JOURNALIST: [Interrupts] What’s the balance, Minister?

ANGUS TAYLOR: That’s what the Australian people, the Australian people want to see balance in the way we get on with the job. Now, press freedom is important, there is no question about that. Absolutely no question about that. And I have been very strong on the importance of freedom of speech throughout my Parliamentary career. But there are national security considerations that need to be taken into account in the way we consider this, and all countries across, western countries, developed countries, across the world realise that striking that balance is a very, very important part of government. That's why we have given this issue to one of the most prominent committees in the Parliament. One that's very, very effective, well-led, bipartisan in its approach as much as it possibly can be. As I say, this is a committee that has representatives from across the Parliament. They're due to report back by the end of November and we'll look forward to seeing the outcomes of that.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you're going to have an energy COAG with your state ministers soon. One of those states, Victoria, continues to push ahead with its renewable energy target despite warnings that there could be significant blackouts this summer. Are you concerned that Victoria could be plunged into darkness by the actions of its own state government?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yes, I am concerned about that. I mean, there are real risks as we go into this summer. What we've got in Victoria is a blanket ban on onshore gas exploration and development. We've got premature closure of coal-fired power stations. We've got reckless targets without balancing investment in dispatchable capacity, and meanwhile they are not interested in getting more dispatchable capacity into the system. In fact, I've written to the Victorian Energy Minister and asked her to work with us on getting more dispatchable capacity in the system, and she hasn’t replied. She hasn't responded. So this is a crucial issue. I am concerned about this summer, but I'm also concerned about future summers. We need more on-demand supply in the Victorian market. We need access to gas, and we need a Victorian Government that is going to get on with sensible things.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction