28 May 2019
GARETH PARKER: Yesterday we began the program talking to the Environmental Protection Authority's Dr Tom Hatton. There is concern, serious concern, in the oil and gas industry about these proposed rules from the EPA that large projects would have to 100 per cent offset their greenhouse gas emissions. You'll recall that this came to the fore in March when the EPA sort of announced its rules and then the industry was very unhappy about them and the Premier was unhappy about them and he came onto the program to slap them down, effectively. The EPA said it would go away and consult. Industry has formed a view- or sections of the industry appear to have formed a view that those consultations are not genuine, though Tom Hatton explained yesterday in some detail that it would take a long time before the EPA arrived at its final position. But he did say this: he did say that he believed it was firmly within the purview of his organisation to make recommendations about greenhouse gas emissions. Is that right? Well, The West this morning spoke to Angus Taylor, who's the Federal Energy Minister. He joins us on the line. Minister, good morning.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me, Gareth.
GARETH PARKER: It's a pleasure. Is this the sort of thing that state EPAs should be getting involved in, regulating greenhouse gas emissions?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well what's very clear is we've set a target for emission reductions, it's 26 per cent reduction by 2030. We've just been to an election with very clear policies about how to achieve it, right down to the last tonne. That's the federal government position. That's the international obligation we've signed up to, and that's an appropriate obligation. That's not consistent with asking oil and gas companies to go to net zero emissions in these projects. And, you know, frankly the whole purpose of our policy is to get the balance right between reducing emissions at a sensible pace. A pace which can be achieved through the use of new technologies without trashing jobs, without trashing crucial industries that are the backbone of the Western Australian economy and the Australian economy more generally, and without putting upward pressure on electricity and other energy prices. So we are very clear about this: the Australian people, those quiet Australians the Prime Minister talks about, have made their voice clear at this election about what they want and we're going to keep pursuing it. And I don't think it is consistent with that to be asking for net zero emissions.
GARETH PARKER: Okay. So the EPA chair, Dr Tom Hatton, yesterday appeared to be- and it's not the first time he's said it but it's the second time he's said it on this program that he doesn't think that your policies are going to get the job done.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, our policy is strong by international standards. It's one of the strongest when you take into account the population growth and economic growth this country has seen, and continues to see. And that's our goal to make sure it keeps going, it is very strong relative to peer countries around the world. So look, that's just factually wrong.
GARETH PARKER: Okay. So short of making a public statement like you've made in the paper and on air today, is there anything you can do? Can you tell him to butt out?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well you know it's up to the state government to manage their agency…
GARETH PARKER: Well that's true.
ANGUS TAYLOR: The good news is they did intervene last time around. I think they're going to- may well need to do the same thing again. That's a matter for them. We can make clear though that we're meeting our international obligations. We reached our Kyoto obligations in 2010, we'll reach them in 2020 in a canter, and we have laid out exactly how we're going to reach our Paris obligations in 2030. We are doing our bit. Now asking Australians to do more than their bit, and in the process to put backbone, crucial industries for this country at risk, we are not going to go there.
GARETH PARKER: Okay.
ANGUS TAYLOR: We made that clear during the election, and I think the state government and the WA EPA should take notice of that.
GARETH PARKER: Well, it will be interesting to see what the Premier says at about 11 o'clock our time this morning. I think he's speaking to the oil and gas industry at this conference over in Brisbane with Peter Coleman from Woodside and others that are talking out about this issue as well. The industry is very worried that even the appearance of uncertainty here- and the EPA say well look it's just advice, it's up to the government whether they accept our advice or reject our advice. But the industry seem to say that this will frighten investors. Do you think that that's right?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well look we have an opportunity here to eliminate a lot of the investment uncertainty everyone's been concerned about. We've gone to an election with a 26 per cent emission reduction target which as I said is a strong target and we're saying to industry, to state governments and to the Labor Party: join with us, we can have a bipartisan target, we all work to achieve it and everyone will have absolute clarity about where we're going on this. That's our position, we would like the state governments to join with us in agreeing that those are the right targets - I mean we took them to an election after all - and get on with the job.
GARETH PARKER: Okay.
ANGUS TAYLOR: And that will be good for industry. I think that will provide the investment certainty that they are looking for.
GARETH PARKER: You've just stepped out of a party room meeting this morning. The Prime Minister called it in Canberra. What was his message to the troops? It's the first time you've all got together since the election win.
ANGUS TAYLOR: His message is to keep listening to the quiet Australians, that they voted us in for another term of government and we now owe them by serving them with humility and with dedication and energy for the next three years. It was a very clear message and it's a message that I firmly believe is the right one. This is an incredible country with incredible people. They've voted us in for another term and our duty now is to them. They're often not heard, they're not shrill but they're getting on with their lives, running their businesses, raising families - all the things that Australians do every day. And our job as politicians is to serve them and that message couldn't have been clearer.
GARETH PARKER: So not- it doesn't sound like there was too much sort of triumphant back-slapping or anything like that.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well there shouldn't be. I mean, the winners on Election Day in my view were the Australian people - they made their voice clear. It was- what they said was at odds with what lots of the commentators thought would be the case. But they are the adjudicators - they decide elections, they decide who goes into Government. So it's our job now, with humility, to go forward and serve them.
GARETH PARKER: Angus Taylor thank you for your time.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks Gareth.
GARETH PARKER: Angus Taylor, the Federal Energy Minister.