Interview with Steve Price, Breakfast, 2GB

Transcript

4 July 2019

E&OE

STEVE PRICE: Angus Taylor is the Federal Energy Minister, who went to the election campaign saying he would bring down energy prices. He's on the line. Minister, thanks for your time.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me, Steve.

STEVE PRICE: 89-year-old woman can't afford to heat her home; bloke paying $7000 a month and is going to have to start laying staff off. I'm not sure your promise in the election campaign has worked.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well Steve, let's look at- first, I should say, if Margaret is in that situation, we'd love to help out. Every energy company must have hardship policies to help out customers like her, they're required by law to have that. And she should be able to exercise or access those hardship policies. So that's very important. We're happy to help out, my office will certainly help her out if she's in that situation. Look, and people shouldn't be in that situation.

STEVE PRICE: She's not on her own.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, no. And they shouldn't be. And look, as I say, there are hardship policies that are available, we've sharpened them up in recent times. And they must have them, the retailers must have these hardship policies. But look, more generally, Steve, there's two types of customers: those who are in a position to ring around and those who aren't. As of the first of July, those who aren't in a position to ring around for whatever reason should be seeing a price reduction. If they aren't, we'd like to know about it. But they are required now to come in under a regulated price cap that has come in from the first of July, and all the companies - we've done the work on this - have seen reductions for those customers from the first of July. And we'd love to see any who haven't seen that, if they're not in that position to ring around. There are of course many customers, in fact a vast majority who do ring around, that's a great thing. In any service you want to be able to- you want to get on and ring around. And from the first of July, there's been a big change in the way they are able to access offers.

STEVE PRICE: So you're trying- are you trying to say that because the change come in on July 1, it won't impact until the next quarter bill? If you are saying that, and that everybody's bill will go down in 3 months' time, you're really setting yourself up to fall over. Because it seems these companies are manipulating prices. I saw a letter from AGL this week which said yep, we will put you back to a standard contract, but your gas price is going to go through the roof.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Just come back to the customers who don't ring around, if they have seen a price increase, or they see a price increase when they get their next bill, then something has gone wrong. And we're very happy to take than on. If you're are on a standing offer…

STEVE PRICE: But your promise was to bring- hang on, your promise was to bring down energy prices. Your promise wasn't to people should ring around. You said you would achieve it.

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, no. Let me say that again, Steve, if you are on a standing offer last year, and you're on one next year - and Margaret may well be in that position, you see this often with pensioners - you should see a price reduction. Because we've set a price cap, we've looked at all the companies, and they have reduced their standing offers. Right. So that is very, very clear in New South Wales, Southeast Queensland, and Victorian markets, all of them. In your listenership area, you should be seeing exactly that. Now, for those who do ring around, and as I say, that is the vast majority, you should be seeing a much simpler comparison than you've seen in the past. What they used to do, Steve…

STEVE PRICE: Can I just ask you something? Have you tried this yourself?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I have.

STEVE PRICE: And so when you ring around, when you make that phone call to your current provider, I'm being told that what you need to have is examples of the competition to that provider at hand so that you can argue with your provider that they're not giving you a big enough discount? Now, are we really expecting people - pensioners, whoever it might be - I mean, even I would find this difficult. I have to sit down one day, do I, and ring every provider in my area, get their rate and use that to bargain with my own provider. Are you really asking me to do that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: There are a lot of ways to ring around. We all do it all the time with all sorts of goods and services, of course, whether it's health insurance or all sorts of things.

STEVE PRICE: You might.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well hang on, Steve. Just let me finish. And of course the more you do it, you'll tend to get a better price. That's the nature of a choice-based economy. We're not moving away from that. That's the way we do things. But if you ring up and ask for a better price, you should be able to get one. There's lots of ways of doing that.

STEVE PRICE: You told us you'd do that.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, no, we never said that Steve. We didn't say we were moving away from a market …

STEVE PRICE: You were painted as the minister for bringing down electricity prices by your own Prime Minister.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, absolutely. And you will see standing offers reduced from 1 July, and as I say, if there's people who haven't seen those reduced we'd like to know about it. And you'll also see a much simpler method for getting an in and calling up retailers and getting a better price. Look, the old system, the way it worked, is one company would say they're giving you a 10 per cent discount, another would say they're giving you a 20 per cent discount. The 20 per cent discount wasn't better. They weren't comparing apples with apples. So we've taken that out and made it simpler. But look…

STEVE PRICE: But what do you say to that bloke from Albury? I mean, he's in your seat I think. What do you say to…

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, no, he's not. He's not.

STEVE PRICE: Well, he's in Sussan's.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, we've actually since…

STEVE PRICE: Seven grand a month.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah. Since yesterday, we've been trying to get in touch with Barry and we're very happy to have a look at his bills and work out what's going on there. Very happy to do that.

STEVE PRICE: Can I just probably go gas. I heard you with John Stanley earlier in the week. I mean, clearly you've been ambushed on gas.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, look, gas is clearly now has to be a big focus. There is no question about that. We have been focusing on electricity. These reforms, by the way, on 1 July are just the first of many. We're going to bring forward more legislation to the Parliament to stop the price gouging we've seen in the past from the big energy companies. We're bringing more supply into the market. But look, there's no doubt that there has to be a focus on gas. That's been a point of discussion as you will read in the newspapers over recent weeks. We'll have more to say about that over the coming weeks and months.

STEVE PRICE: Okay.

ANGUS TAYLOR: It is a big issue, and I'm very happy to come back onto your program and talk about it again in the future.

STEVE PRICE: You've got a long way to go to get to that 25 per cent, just…

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, we understand that. We understand there's more work to do here. There's more work to do here Steve. And I'm very happy to keep talking with you and others about the important work we're doing and how we can help people with what are very real issues. And the two you raised, Margaret and Barry, very happy to help out with those as well.

STEVE PRICE: You're going to get your tax cuts through the Parliament today. You, as in the government. You must be happy about that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, of course. It's fantastic. You know, this is an important- another important reform. It'll put money in people's pockets. We need that. We need a strong economy, and tax cuts are absolutely crucial to achieving that. It pays for our schools, our hospitals, our roads, all of those things, Steve, so this is a very important reform. And I think- we certainly hope to get it through today. It's an important day for all Australians and an important election commitment we are absolutely determined to keep.

STEVE PRICE: Thanks for fronting up, good on you.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks Steve.

STEVE PRICE: Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction