Interview with Laura Jayes, AM Agenda, Sky News

Transcript

25 June 2019

E&OE

LAURA JAYES: Let's go now live to Canberra - Angus Taylor, the Energy Minister, joins us.  Compulsory viewing for you perhaps as well Angus Taylor, but this - an important revelation today by Peter Dutton - was it tenable for him to take on that role of deputy at any point?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look Laura, this episode has been resigned to our past. It does feel like ancient history now, since then we've had an election with a very clear victory. And I think the quiet Australians who put us into government for another term want us to focus on governing, and I think this now is an issue that they're well past. They want us to focus on getting those tax cuts through which are absolutely crucial, making sure they're getting a fair deal on energy, making sure the $100 billion infrastructure pipeline happens as quickly as possible. Look, these are the things that I hear out in my electorate, out on the ground and around Australia that they want us focused on. And whilst I'm sure it will be an endlessly fascinating documentary, the truth is our focus is now is on government, not on going over the past.

LAURA JAYES: Okay. Well, fair enough and it is fascinating viewing indeed Minister. Does this stunning victory that you just talked about justify the chaos that we saw last year?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, Laura we have won an election victory since that happened, won an election since that happened. It was a very clear victory, there was no ambiguity about it and now our focus has to be on government. I mean, I think- as I say, what happens inside the Canberra bubble - but, well you and I have had this discussion many times before - is not necessarily, often not, what the quiet Australians, what middle Australia wants us to focus on. And we have to remember that every day, I certainly remember that every day and, as I say, whilst I'm sure it's a very good documentary it won't be my focus in terms of what I'm spending my time on over the coming days, weeks and months.

LAURA JAYES: Will you watch it though?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I don't think I can actually. I think I’ve got something else on, but as I say I'm sure it's a wonderful documentary.

LAURA JAYES: Okay. Well as long as you're not watching the cricket instead, we'll send you a copy. Anyway, let's move on to this current parliament and where the tax cuts debates are at. The cross bench wants an energy guarantee of sorts, particularly when it comes to gas prices - this is Centre Alliance and Jacqui Lambie. Have you been involved in those discussions? And are you willing to give that guarantee?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I think they're right in saying that Australians deserve a fair deal on energy Laura, and you know that that's a very sharp focus for us. From 1 July you'll see the default market offer, price caps coming into place for retail customers. It's a very important competition reform, and, there are other competition reforms we’ll be progressing through the parliament in the coming months. These are absolutely crucial to make sure people get a fair deal on energy. We need to make sure there's the right supply- a balance of generation coming into the marketplace. And we need to make sure Laura that we don't have state governments running off on their own. We've seen an extraordinary spectre now, not only did we go to the last election rejecting Labor's 45 per cent emission reduction target, we've got a Victorian government now talking about a 60 per cent emission reduction target. I mean, this is the kind of thing that will create the investment uncertainty that will undermine the ability to deliver a fair deal on energy. So this is absolutely inappropriate and the Victorian government of all is the one that's banned gas development. So it's an absolutely extraordinary situation. We'll keep fighting against it and of course the cross benchers are quite right to raise the importance of this issue.

LAURA JAYES: Alright. We'll get to the Yallourn Power Station in a moment. You say from 1 July some changes that you promised at the election will kick in. When will power prices come down and by how much?

ANGUS TAYLOR: July 1 and we'll see - depending on the plan you're on for standing offers - you'll see very significant reductions- I mean in some cases as much as $800 a year in savings. And the people who will save the most from this reduction in standing offers are the ones who are the most vulnerable - a very significant number of small businesses who simply don't have time to get out there and negotiate a better deal. I've spoken to a number of people who run gyms, or dry cleaners, or cafés and restaurants who are on standing offers who will benefit from this. I mean, on top of that, we've said we're targeting a reduction in wholesale prices down to below $70 a megawatt hour in the coming years as well and that's a very, very important reform which will be driven by putting extra supply into the marketplace. What we don't need though, what we don't need Laura, is state governments running off on their own and that's exactly what we're seeing with the Victorian Government now and there's talk of the Western Australian Government going their own way. We went to an election with a very clear set of policies. Unambiguous-

LAURA JAYES: Yeah, sure. And the states were the same at a state level. So why should your mandate trump theirs?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well no. So the Victorian Government didn't go to an election with a 60 per cent emission reduction target and with a set of policies that are already demonstrating that the lights are going off and that they are putting upward pressure on prices. They didn't go to an election with that policy, I mean that's very clear. Nor did the Western Australian Government go to the election with a policy of trying to shut down all emissions from their new gas developments. I mean these are extraordinary situations. 

LAURA JAYES: Well, how pragmatic are you willing to be Minister? Because we see reports today in the Herald Sun that because of the political uncertainty the Yallourn Power Station could close within six years. That's, I think, some five or six years earlier than it should. This uncertainty, this change and difference between federal and state governments, I mean, its Queensland, Its Victoria, its potentially Western Australia and neither side’s willing to move. How do you fix that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well we went to an election. We went with a 26 per cent emission reduction policy. The Australian people put us back into government when the experts were telling us that was never going to happen. And we have a very clear mandate on tax cuts, on our emissions policies, on our fair deal on energy. I mean nothing could be as clear as those, which were fought very hard during that election campaign. Now state governments who want to run off on their own - and by the way they don't do the international negotiations, that's our job - are simply going to put upward pressure on prices, are going to undermine the reliability of electricity. We've seen the Victorian Government's ban on gas is actually driving up the price of gas down in Victoria and this is undermining jobs, it's raising the price of gas for households and small businesses, those hard working small business in Victoria. You know the Victorian Government needs to come clean on what its plan is and explain to the Victorian people why they are happy to undermine the reliability of their electricity system to drive up the price of energy through these policies. It is time for them to come clean, Laura. 

LAURA JAYES: Just quickly, will you save Yallourn, if you can?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well the way to save Yallourn, and make sure we've got the right balance in our electricity system between dispatchable, reliable power which will be coal and gas and some hydro…

LAURA JAYES: Yeah.

ANGUS TAYLOR: As well as the renewables that are coming in at a record rate - the way to make sure that that happens is to prevent or avoid having these crazy targets that state governments like the Victorian Government are talking about, going off the reservation. Really they are having no impact on global emissions and global temperature. They're too small to have an impact, they don't negotiate international arrangements, they're not helping, and they're making the people in their states worse off. And it is time for them to come clean about what their plans are and in particular talk to the people of Victoria about the impacts of those plans - and why the people of Victoria, why they think it’s okay for the lights to go out each summer as we saw last summer, Laura.

LAURA JAYES: Minister, we appreciate your time this morning. We'll check in soon.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction