9 August 2019
LAURA JAYES: Energy Minister Angus Taylor joins us. Thanks so much for your time, Minister. First of all, I've got to ask you about this stunning report overnight, the IPCC says a balanced diet will save the planet. I'm doing my bit, are you doing yours?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well I like a good range of foods from the full food pyramid, Laura, but look, there's reports around saying that we should be forcing people to become vegans - people are free to become vegans, that's up to them to be vegans - we're not going to tell people what they should be eating, that's just not the role of government, Laura. Of course, I'll continue to support the wonderful produce that Australian farmers produce every day and we have a fantastic agricultural sector, food sector and farming sector that provides for us extremely well.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, let's get onto the Liddell Power Station. How much is it going to cost taxpayers to prolong the life of Liddell?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Let's take a step back here, Laura - what we don't want to see is a repeat of what happened with Hazelwood, where there was premature closure of that coal-fired power station without a plan for how to keep prices down and keep the lights on, and we've seen the result of that. Wholesale power prices, on the announcement of the closure of Hazelwood, more than doubled under certain circumstances. We saw 200,000 households and businesses lose their power last summer in Victoria. There simply wasn't a plan. We're not going to see a repeat of that, we're going to make sure of that. So four years ahead of the scheduled closure, which has been extended out now until 2023 - AGL's announcement last week - they would extend the life of Liddell. We now have time to work through and make sure we have a plan for either extension or replacement and all sorts of options in between. I am not going to front run the conclusion of that taskforce. It's an important taskforce that will include the Commonwealth Government working closely with New South Wales Government, with AGL, with customers who are obviously absolutely crucial to an outcome here. What's crucial here is a clear plan that's going to deliver for New South Wales and for other states because sadly what we saw in Victoria with Hazelwood was contagious to other states, it really was a disaster for the East Coast electricity market.
LAURA JAYES: But this extension, isn't it just a purely commercial decision? You wouldn't rule out taxpayer funds enabling that extension?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well you're asking me to front run the conclusions of the taskforce and I'm just not going to do that. What I am going to say is that this taskforce needs to deliver an outcome that delivers for the electricity consumers of New South Wales and the East Coast.
LAURA JAYES: Is this part of the consideration of the taskforce at least, will the taskforce consider whether taxpayer funds are needed?
ANGUS TAYLOR: As I said, the considerably from extension through to like for like replacement, and like-for-like is crucial here. You can speculate about replacing what has been a very effective coal fired power station for a long time with something that is far less reliable and far less affordable. We're not going to do that, it has to be like-for-like. We'll work through the full range of options. There's very goodwill between AGL, New South Wales, ourselves and customers to get a solution to this problem very quickly, and that's exactly what we'll be doing, Laura. No doubt we'll be talking with you lots more about the options that emerge and what we pursue.
LAURA JAYES: I do hope so. Now this taskforce, does it preclude the need to still have that big stick legislation, does it?
ANGUS TAYLOR: No. That legislation will be brought forward into the Parliament this year - we're working through it.
LAURA JAYES: What's the hold up?
ANGUS TAYLOR: There's no hold up. We have only had a couple of weeks sitting so far and we will bring that forward as the time permits in the Parliament. We're absolutely committed to bringing that legislation forward. These are important competition reforms because I think Australians understand we need to make sure there's enough supply in the market to drive prices down, to keep the lights on, to keep those crucial jobs in energy intensive industries across, particularly regional and suburban Australia, and we're absolutely committed to those reforms which are all about, at the end of the day, making sure we've got a fair deal on energy for Australians. It is very targeted, very carefully thought through legislation that we're working through now, and we will be bringing forward to the Parliament in short order.
LAURA JAYES: Just quickly, we saw some more blackouts in South Australia last night. There's some pretty wild weather - do you put it down to wild weather or is this something you'll be investigating with renewables and wind farms not operating as they should?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I think we've had some issues in local distribution networks in South Australia, no doubt I'll be given more updates as we learn more. The important thing here though is that we have a system that can deal with extreme weather, whether it's heat or cold. It is absolutely crucial that we plan for the worst possible day. There are always occasions where wild weather has the potential to have a real impact. We need to be ready for that. This is part of what we're doing with this Liddell taskforce, it's planning for the worst possible day. It's easy to plan for the best possible day, Laura, but it's planning for the worst possible day and making sure we have the affordable, reliable generation in place. Crucially, at a time where we're seeing record investment in solar and wind, we have to have a solution for when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn’t shine. That's not a problem today but it is a problem at times and we've certainly seen that in the recent past in Victoria in January, where 200,000 consumers lost their power.
LAURA JAYES: Angus Taylor, appreciate your time this morning.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Thank you.