Interview with Tony Arthur, ABC Radio Illawarra


18 July 2019


TONY ARTHUR: The 2019 Pollie Pedal is underway at the moment. Now lots of politicians donning the lycra, hopping on their bikes and going for a pedal, and raising money for Soldier On. One of those who is participating this year is the Liberal Member for Hume and Federal Energy Minister, Angus Taylor. Mr Taylor, good morning.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me Tony.

TONY ARTHUR: Good to hear from you. Now where did you join this year's ride, where are you now, and what's today's destination?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Right now we are in Dalby, and I joined from Warwick. I came in a couple of days late, but we all try and do as many days as we can. I'm doing the rest of the ride which will be about 800 kilometres. We're off to Kingaroy today. A fantastic event. We've got about 30-odd riders, getting out through regional Queensland. It is drought stricken sadly at the moment, although just beautiful country. I mean, it's incredible. Black soils up here, quite extraordinary for someone like me with an agricultural background. It is wonderful to see despite the drought.

TONY ARTHUR: Rather challenging hilly terrain though isn't it today?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We’ve got a good hill to go over on our way to Kingaroy, but it is downhill from about half way, so that's always good.

TONY ARTHUR: How many pollies are taking part this year?

ANGUS TAYLOR: There is usually about a dozen pollies who at different times get involved. Not everyone goes the whole way, I'm one of the one's who tends to do most of it, if not all of it each year and I have been doing it for a number of years. The most important thing here is we are raising money for Soldier On which is a brilliant cause – it helps veterans who have left the military or are leaving the military, often with mental health issues for a variety of reasons. This year we're raising money for Soldier On as we have done for the last couple of years. You know, we raise a significant sum for whatever cause we're helping out each year. As I say, this year it's Soldier On. If people want to help out, they can jump on the Everyday Hero site and make a contribution to what is a brilliant cause to a very, very important issue which is the mental health of our veterans.

TONY ARTHUR: Arguably the highest profile pollie on the pedal in the last 22 years is Tony Abbott, but he lost at the last election - is he still part of the Pollie Pedal?

ANGUS TAYLOR: He still comes along which is great and we have ex-pollies who come along from time to time, which is always good.  This is one of those things which is really about the cause, and there are lots of pollies willing to support what is an extremely important cause, and that's certainly the case this year.

TONY ARTHUR: We'll move away from the image of our favourite politicians in lycra and on their bikes for a moment if I may. If you put your Federal Energy Minister hat on, all the papers reporting today that Australia's biggest electricity users will be able to get paid for reducing power demand during peak times, easing the load on the grid and potentially cutting costs for everyone. Now, this seems to be widely welcomed - Rod Sims, the ACCC Chair has provided some strong endorsements, Matt Kean, NSW's Energy Minister strongly supports this proposal. Where do you stand on it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: This is important. We've got to get it right. What we've got at the moment is enormous amounts of solar and wind coming into the system, record amounts. In 2018, Australia was the highest in the world per capita - double the next country. So this is very, very high levels of solar and wind. Managing that is proving to be a significant challenge. Part of that is making sure on those peak days, those very tough days - often in summer, sometimes in winter - we're in a position where we can manage demand. If an industrial user is able to reduce their demand, great - some can, some can't - but it's important that we provide the right incentive for them to do that. If they can reduce their demand a little bit and take pressure off the grid, that's a good thing. At the same time, we've still got to make sure that our grid is working well and this is going to, as I say, this is going to be a very big challenge in the coming years. We've got to keep the lights on, we've got to keep downward pressure on prices. This is one of many measures that's important to achieve that.

TONY ARTHUR: If this carries on and is introduced, it's not scheduled to start in July 2022 - what's in it for the domestic power user?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Any measure like this can reduce prices and improve reliability which is what we're all about and the reason for that is simple. We spend a lot of money on dealing with what is our worst day, our toughest day of the year, having that network infrastructure in place and having the generation in place for that very, very tough day where demand is highest. If we can manage that better, we can reduce costs and improve reliability for everybody. So that's why this is important. It's not entirely new, we're already doing some of this, but it's better to do it because an industrial user wants to do it rather than they're being forced to. We want to move away from the industrial user really being obliged to reduce their usage. We'd much prefer having a situation where they have an incentive to do that and we're confident that there's potential to do it. As I say, it's one of many measures and on its own, it won't solve the problems we're addressing, but it's an important part of a package.

TONY ARTHUR: I'm sorry to put a time constraint on your answer to this next question - we're about 30 seconds away from the news - I'm just wondering where you stand on Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt's call for a referendum for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I'm supportive of it. I think constitutional recognition is an important thing to take to a referendum. I'm very supportive of it. That's different from a voice in the Parliament, but the constitutional point recognition is one I'm keen to pursue.

TONY ARTHUR: Thank you very much for your time, and safe and happy pedalling today.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks Tony.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction