Interview with Melinda James, ABC Radio Illawarra


26 July 2019

MELINDA JAMES: The parliamentary week this week certainly saw Angus Taylor the Energy Minister and of course, the Member for Hume, the chosen target of the Opposition with honed and sustained attacks across the parliamentary week. Joining me now to talk about a bunch of things - about Australia's energy policy, about the potential for nuclear being in the mix, and the debate over things like Newstart, Angus Taylor joins me now. Good morning.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me Melinda.

MELINDA JAMES: You certainly were the target, pretty much the one and only target of the Opposition this week in the Parliament - what do you think that was about?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I've been sticking up for farmers in my electorate, Melinda. We've had a change to a listing of the grasslands in the Southern Tablelands and that was a very substantial change, with potential to have a big impact on the ability of farmers in my electorate to improve their land, through pastoral improvement which is a big deal across the Southern Tablelands and Southern Highlands. This listing had the potential to have a very big impact so I asked for a meeting to discuss this, and in particular discuss the technical aspects of the listing. There's all sorts of issues here about whether clover is treated in a particular way, and we had the meeting. Now Labor has decided that because I live and farm in the electorate, and I am a farmer, that this is unacceptable.

MELINDA JAMES: They do say - I mean, you said it has the potential to have a big impact on landholders, one of those landholders being a company that is -

ANGUS TAYLOR: One of the landholders is me. I'm a farmer, so are many, many people in my electorate and many people who'll be listening to your broadcast right now. I mean, look-

MELINDA JAMES: But a big impact on a company that is, one of the directors of which is your brother.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Melinda, this discussion was about the technical aspects of a listing, which had the potential and still has the potential to have a very big impact on farming across the region. I make absolutely no apologies for standing up for farmers in my region. That includes me and other family members. I mean this is, you know, what my job is as a local Member of Parliament. It is my job to stand up for us. If I'm not standing up for my farmers in the Federal Parliament, then who is? You know I feel very strongly about this and all local members, I mean this is what local members should do.

MELINDA JAMES: Can we move on to another, one of the other topics on which you were questioned repeatedly by the Opposition in Question Time, particularly on Tuesday, and this is in relation to emissions, but particularly the news coming out last night and this morning about the outgoing public service head - the most powerful man arguably in the public service - Martin Parkinson, basically saying power prices would be lower now if an emissions trading scheme had been implemented more than 10 years ago. Australians are pretty sick and tired of the debate because we have been discussing this for more than 10 years, but he says if we'd acted back then, then we'd be paying less for our electricity. Do you agree with that assessment?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, not at all. I mean, we had Labor introduce a carbon tax or a carbon price a number of years ago, and we abolished it. When they introduced it, electricity prices went up. When we abolished it, electricity prices went down. It was as simple as that. They're the facts and so I simply think that's wrong. Look, the way to get emissions down, and we have a very clear focus on it, is sensible low cost initiatives. Right now we're seeing record levels of investment in renewable energy, in solar and wind. The highest in the world in 2018, there was no country even close to us.

MELINDA JAMES: What? In dollar terms?

ANGUS TAYLOR: In dollar terms, per capita.

MELINDA JAMES: Per capita yes.

ANGUS TAYLOR: For our population obviously - we were double the next country in the world which was Japan. So we're getting emissions down in low cost ways. It's important to do that. We don't want to impose extra costs on people, but look, let's be clear, the point of emissions trading schemes in the past has often been to raise the price of energy, or typically always been to raise the price of energy so people consume less. We're taking a different approach.

MELINDA JAMES: But also to provide an incentive to electricity generators to find new, more sustainable ways to produce electricity.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, but Melinda it's very clear, look, we have a case study - Labor did it, prices went up and when it was abolished, prices went down. So I think this is beyond dispute, that's what's happened. From my point of view, I think that position that he's taken is simply wrong.

MELINDA JAMES: Now there have been rumblings from the pro-nuclear lobby, and Barnaby Joyce certainly seems to be on their side, in terms of looking at putting nuclear into the mix. You've been quoted as saying you had an open mind on nuclear power because of one of your answers to a question in Question Time, but what is your position on nuclear? Is it something that you would seriously consider because if we were to do anything as a country, we would probably have to start now wouldn't we, for it to be worthwhile?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look Melinda, I said in Question Time very clearly that there's a moratorium on nuclear power in Australia and the Government has no plans to change that. It’s as simple as that Melinda.

MELINDA JAMES: And very briefly, we only have a minute before the news, but your position on Newstart and raising it. Backbenchers are also continuing to agitate now for – Liberal backbenchers - for some sort of increase to Newstart.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, no one is saying it's easy to get by without a job, but that's why our focus has to be on getting people into work and we have.

MELINDA JAMES: But in meantime, it's simply, it's not possible to live on Newstart at the moment.

ANGUS TAYLOR: 99 per cent of people on Newstart are getting other benefits, but look, no one is saying it's easy. No one is saying it's easy. The whole purpose is to get people out into work, out of that position where they're on Newstart as quickly as possible. As a Government, we've been phenomenally successful at this. I mean in Hume in my electorate we've had unemployment in recent years around 3 per cent, at extremely low levels. We've seen 1.3 million jobs being created in our time in Government.

MELINDA JAMES: Angus Taylor, I have to - I'm so sorry, I have to thank you for your time, we have just hit the news.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks Melinda.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction