Interview with Tom Connell, Sky News

Transcript

6 June 2019

E&OE

TOM CONNELL: Angus Taylor, thanks for your time. So the Senate deadline for releasing national greenhouse emission data came and went on Friday. Why wasn't it released?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well they're released now, and so hopefully we'll talk about the substance of that.

TOM CONNELL: We will, but a lot of people…

ANGUS TAYLOR: Because there's an important discussion to have about that, Tom. But look, I was sworn in last Wednesday with an expanded portfolio. I take my responsibilities as a Minister very seriously in making sure that what comes across my desk  and is released from the Department, not an independent agency, has been reviewed by me and my team and now it’s out there…

TOM CONNELL: So the next one will come out on time?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Of course, we intend, we plan to get them all out in time in the future. But the reality is, Tom, is I was sworn in on Wednesday last week.

TOM CONNELL: Alright. Sounds fair enough. They have gone up again - emissions for the year 2018…

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well in absolute terms, yes. But the important message here, which is a very positive message, is this: if you exclude the impact of LNG exports, which have been a major growth area for the Australian economy, they've been consistently falling- emissions have been consistently falling since we got into Government year-on-year. Now, that's good news for Australia. We have been reducing them, excluding those LNG exports. Now, those LNG exports have been a very rapid area of growth and they are reducing global emissions, and in a very significant way because they're replacing, to a large degree, what would otherwise be coal fired generation in Asia. And gas generation has about half the emissions of coal. So these are both good things. Australia is reducing its emissions, excluding LNG exports and LNG exports are reducing global emissions. In the arcane world of carbon accounting, we get no credit for that, but these are both good. The other point I'd make alongside of that, Tom, is that we are now at the lowest level of emissions per capita on an emissions intensive basis in 29 years.

TOM CONNELL: You'd expect that to happen though wouldn’t you, as technology gets better.

ANGUS TAYLOR: This is exactly the point, I completely agree. Technology does get better. We've seen a 3.5 per cent reduction in emissions in the national electricity market in the calendar year to calendar year. It's a very significant reduction, and that's as we see solar and wind coming into the system - about $7 billion a year worth of that coming in at the moment. It is reducing emissions. The challenge now is to make sure that we keep the system reliable and affordable as that's happening.

TOM CONNELL: Now that's all well and good but per capita is not how Paris is measured…

ANGUS TAYLOR: Sure.

TOM CONNELL: And, like it or not, the other emissions in LNG are part of what we do. So if they're still going up, at what point are they going to stop going up, overall?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well as I say, if you exclude LNG emissions-

TOM CONNELL: But, but …

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, let me finish because I'll answer that question. If you exclude LNG emissions and we're seeing them consistently tracking down. Now, LNG growth won't be in the future what it has been in the past. It's been a breakneck pace of growth as the new LNG trains have been coming on in Queensland. They're close to full utilisation now and we don't expect the same level of growth.

TOM CONNELL: But will they stay close to full for a lot of…

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well they won't be growing. That's the point.

TOM CONNELL: Not growing; but they'll still make up this same part of our emissions.

ANGUS TAYLOR: But they won't be growing. But coming back to your earlier question, which is the important one: will we meet our Paris obligations? Absolutely.

TOM CONNELL: I asked when emissions would start coming down. How many more years will they keep going up?

ANGUS TAYLOR:       Well let me talk about Paris, because that's the thing that really counts here. We have a 26 per cent emission reduction target. We needed to find 328 million tonnes of abatement, we knew, from the work we'd done up to December last year. It's a report that's released every December. We've laid out to the last tonne how we're going to achieve that, 11 years ahead of the target year. Now, that tonnage is public, it's clear, we've laid it out. This has never been done before, and yet we reached Kyoto 1 and Kyoto 2 in an absolute canter. We've laid out 11 years ahead of time how we're going to reach these targets.

TOM CONNELL: Under that plan, when will emissions overall stop going up?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well as I say, LNG has been the main driver of this.

TOM CONNELL: Under that plan, when will emissions stop going up?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we'll see as the LNG exports slow, as I've already answered, you will see overall emissions responding accordingly. What we will see and we expect to see, is excluding those LNG exports, we'd continue to see a reduction of emissions.

TOM CONNELL: But what about with them? Because surely if you've got this 11-year plan you can map out when we'll stop going up. At the moment, each year it just keeps going up.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well it's not. That's actually not right. There’s time periods where it's gone down and time periods where it's gone up…

TOM CONNELL: In quarters, but year-on-year it has been going up. When was the last year it didn't go up?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, as I say, if you go back, we've seen a reduction of about 11.9 per cent since the base year. So we're 12 per cent below the base year already on a target for our Paris obligations. And of course, we will use the Kyoto Carryover. The UK, of course, has decided in recent days to use the Kyoto Carryover. We'll use our Kyoto Carryover as part of this. And that means the abatement task is very clear. We've laid it out to the last tonne, Tom. We've laid it out to the last tonne. And that is-

TOM CONNELL: Okay, but is there a year where it will stop going up?

ANGUS TAYLOR: What matters is, are we going to reach our Paris target?

TOM CONNELL: I get that's what matters in a broad sense but I'm trying to say …

ANGUS TAYLOR: Not in a broad sense; in a narrow sense.

TOM CONNELL: Sure. What I'm trying to ascertain is if we're so sure of hitting that, do we have a year-on-year where we're going to say: oh, this will be the year where we start going down?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we plan carbon budgets over a ten-year period. That's how it works. So carbon budgeting, it's a decade-long thing. It says we know how much carbon can be emitted from the Australian economy during that ten-year period. We target a reduction in that budget. In this case, it's got to be 328 million tonnes. We know, versus business as usual. We've laid out exactly how that's going to be achieved - 102 million tonnes…

TOM CONNELL: Yes, and we've seen that with the Kyoto Carryover, efficiency, renewables and that sort of thing. So, you have the confidence of 11 years but you can't say a year in which emissions will actually start tracking down?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well we target a carbon budget and we are, as I said, we will see emissions reaching that target over the ten-year period from 2020 to 2030. We map out the overall carbon budget. We will reach it - 328 million tonnes; 102 million tonnes, for instance, from the Climate Solutions Fund; 67 million tonnes from energy efficiency. So we've laid this out in excruciating detail.

TOM CONNELL: I want to get on to the AFP raids over the last couple of days. Do we need to look at freedoms and protections for both journalism and whistle-blowers?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well Tom, look this was a decision that was made by the AFP, independent from Government. It's a statutory organisation. I was the Minister…

TOM CONNELL: I understand -

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well no, let me answer your question because this is very, very important and this is crucial to answering your question.

TOM CONNELL: Okay.

ANGUS TAYLOR: They have made an independent decision to get on with this based on referrals they received. I was Minister for Law Enforcement and they are an independent agency let me assure you. They've made a decision to proceed with these raids. The law that governs that is very clear, including their independence in their statute, and it involves a balance between national security and of course freedom of press, which is hugely important.

TOM CONNELL: Is that balance right at the moment?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well look, the commentators will all have views on this and I'm sure you-

TOM CONNELL: I'm asking for your view.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well I'm telling you that right now we're dealing with this specific instance, which clearly people are exercised over. But it’s been a decision made by an independent agency of Government.

TOM CONNELL: I understand and I've never actually gone down the avenue of what did the Government know and when. I'm talking about the laws they are acting on and whether they're right when you see, for example, last year we had new laws passed and tougher penalties. It had a carve out for journalists where they believed it was in the public interest - they would have a defence, but not for whistle blowers. If the whistle blowers don't have that defence what value is that really?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well look I don't have all the facts of this case and nor do you. And-

TOM CONNELL: But I'm not asking that. I'm not asking the case there, I'm asking the principle.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well hang on, you are asking about the case because this has come up…

TOM CONNELL: I asked about legislation passed last year.

ANGUS TAYLOR: This has come up as a result of the case. This has come up as a result of the case. Now this case - of course we don't know all the facts, you don't know all the facts - these have been decisions made by an independent agency of Government and they're decisions that should be and have been made independent from Government. Now, as those facts come to bear I'm sure they'll be debate about the legislation and whether it's appropriate. Ultimately, legislation in this area has to balance those two things - national security concerns that really matter, but at the same time, freedom of press, which as you know, is extremely important.

TOM CONNELL: So what, again though, the question- if we can separate for a moment the case over the past two days…

ANGUS TAYLOR: We can't. We're talking about it because of the case from the last two days.

TOM CONNELL: Well, we are and it's topical for that reason. But purely on the merits of legislation passed last year that introduced tougher penalties there was a carve out for journalists, a defence - not exemption - but defence, if they thought something was in the public interest…

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yes.

TOM CONNELL: Not a carve out for whistle blowers.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Right.

TOM CONNELL: Does a carve out for whistle blowers need to be looked at?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Again, I'm not going to get drawn into redrawing legislation right now when we have a case in front of us where an independent agency of Government made a decision based on referrals they received and have proceeded with that fact.

TOM CONNELL: Okay.

ANGUS TAYLOR: There is a separate discussion at some point I'm sure about the legislation. When the full facts of this emerge, that would be an appropriate time to have that discussion. But not, not now.

TOM CONNELL: Do you get the principle though of if you're protecting a journalist but not a whistle blower the stories won't come out?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well Tom, I mean at the end of the day, national security leaks are a major issue and freedom of press is a major issue. We've got to get the balance right. Of course that is an ongoing task for Government to get that balance right…

TOM CONNELL: Okay.

ANGUS TAYLOR: As the facts of this emerge, and they haven't as yet…

TOM CONNELL: So the story that this is based on though…

ANGUS TAYLOR: There is a sensible discussion to have.

TOM CONNELL: As revealed by Annika Smethurst for one example, where a push from Departments for more spying powers. How does learning of that push for a power, no case - we're not talking about a raid or an incident - how does that threaten national security?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Sorry I'm not sure I understand the question.

TOM CONNELL: Annika Smethurst's story detailed a push within Home Affairs and the Defence Department, emails were revealed, a push for potential more powers on spying. How does learning of that push, which was the story, threaten national security?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well again you're diving into the facts of this case and we don’t have all the facts of this case. There is a balancing exercise which needs to take place in the legislation between national security concerns and they are hugely important. If you are considering issues of national security, you need to be able to do that with confidence knowing the documentation is not going to be leaked. And on the other hand the crucial importance that you understand of course better than most of freedom of press. Now we can get into the facts of this case and whatever discussion we have will be completely incomplete at this point.

TOM CONNELL: Okay. Do you agree with this principle, we need to protect national security but not protect the Government or Departments from embarrassment?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well national security is- protecting national security is the purpose of the exercise and balancing that with freedom of press. I mean I've said that three or four time and that's the policy imperative.

TOM CONNELL: But the second part, but this should never be about protecting a Government, a Minister, a Department, from embarrassment or something they didn't want known for themselves rather than national security.

ANGUS TAYLOR: It's about national security, I mean there's no doubt that that's correct Tom. But let's not pre-empt an investigation which is ongoing. That's what we have here, an investigation which is ongoing. I don't know all the facts of that investigation, you don't know of a the facts of that investigation. I'm sure they'll come forth in the fullness of time. There will be as…

TOM CONNELL: Will we find anything about it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: As there always has been, and I've seen this in my previous role as the Minister for Law Enforcement, an appropriate discussion in the public square about the balance between national security and freedom of press. It's an important debate, it's a debate which we constantly have to test and get right and we should do that in the light of cases that emerge and facts that emerge. But this is an ongoing investigation…

TOM CONNELL: So where do you have that-

ANGUS TAYLOR: This is an ongoing investigation, I think we should leave it as that.

TOM CONNELL: But we can look at the law and how it applies and carve out, even as these investigations go, can’t we, without singling them out. Well, we want to review protection of press and whistle blowers, and-

ANGUS TAYLOR: If you want to propose a change to the law, I'm sure there'll be lots of good discussion about that Tom and go right ahead.

TOM CONNELL: Well the Greens are saying, for example, to the Senate Inquiry [inaudible] into the freedom of the press.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Go right ahead. If you want to have a discussion about some proposed changes I'm sure you can have it - you're a commentator, that's your job. In time, if there are sensible proposals that come forward about legislative changes I'm sure that discussion will proceed. But as I say the facts of these cases in front of us are not clear and there's an ongoing investigation, I think it should be left that way.

TOM CONNELL: Alright. Angus Taylor thanks very much for your time today.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me Tom.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction