Adelaide Doorstop 23/02/2019

February 23, 2019


SUBJECTS: Liberals playing catch up on default price; Liberals energy crisis; Re-development of Port Adelaide

MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY, MEMBER FOR PORT ADELAIDE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR HINDMARSH: Thanks for coming down to Grange this afternoon. Once again Scott Morrison has been forced to dust off a policy that was agreed between the major parties more than six months ago, all to cover up their broader energy chaos after last week being forced to dump their eleventh energy policy since 2016.

Now it was Labor, more than half a year ago that first announced our intention to put in place a default price for the electricity market for people on standing offers. Of course we welcome this government finally announcing its intention to implement something that we agreed with Malcolm Turnbull all that time ago.

But let’s be clear, this announcement does nothing for 90 per cent or more of Australian households and almost every Australian business.

Nine in ten households will get nothing from this divided government but watching their power bills continue to go up and up and up. If this government was serious about providing price relief to all Australian households, rather than a very small minority, they would return to the table with Labor and start to work on the National Energy Guarantee.

JOURNALIST: So that’s your answer? The NEG is Labor’s answer? That is Labor’s policy, the guaranteed way to bring prices down?

BUTLER: Well that’s what Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg were telling everyone last year. The NEG is a policy supported by every single business group in the country and every state government, Liberal and Labor alike. It was Scott Morrison who walked away from the National Energy Guarantee, which he had told everyone would save Australian households $550 on their power bills, all because of division and ideology in the Coalition party room.
Now, like the dog that caught the car, Angus Taylor and Scott Morrison have no broader energy policy to solve the deep crisis impacting Australian households and Australian businesses. Instead we get this announcement today that was agreed by Malcolm Turnbull and Labor more than half a year ago, it was Labor’s idea in the first place to put this in place so of course we welcome it, but it will do nothing for 90 per cent or more of Australian households.

JOURNALIST: Outside of the NEG how does Labor propose to bring power prices down should it be successful at the next election?

BUTLER: Well it’s very clear that the best way to bring power prices down is to expand renewable energy. That’s been clear now for a number of years, supported by every business group in the country. So Labor’s plan is more renewables, cheaper power prices and better Australian jobs.

JOURNALIST: Are you willing to put a dollar figure as to what the savings would be for the average Australian household?

BUTLER: What we’ve seen is modelling from the Government last year, that the National Energy Guarantee would cut power bills by about $550. The same modelling also said that a failure to implement the National Energy Guarantee would see power bills start to rise by as much as $300. We’ve already seen that in the market, futures markets, which are looking at wholesale prices for this year and 2020.

They’ve seen wholesale power price expectations climb by 35-40 per cent since the National Energy Guarantee was dumped. Precisely what Scott Morrison’s own modelling said would happen. So we want the country to get back to the National Energy Guarantee, start to see households and businesses benefit from a price reduction that Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg had promised everyone, rather than seeing this government continue to be vetoed by a hard-right minority within the Coalition party room.

JOURNALIST: How quickly do you think a National Energy Guarantee could be rolled out if Labor is successful at the next election?

BUTLER: Well we think there is very strong support among business groups, we know that, and amongst state governments, Liberal and Labor alike. So, we think we can get back to the table very quickly if we’re lucky enough to be elected in May. But we can’t continue to have the Coalition party room vetoing sensible energy policy and that’s really the challenge for Scott Morrison now.

Whatever the result of the election, whether they win or lose, Scott Morrison has to stand up to the hard-right within the Coalition party room and start to see some energy policy that works in the national interest rather than the ideological positioning of Tony Abbott and his supporters.

JOURNALIST: Industry has warned that this could hurt competition and potentially leave customers worse off, is that a risk?

BUTLER: This was a recommendation from the ACCC, the consumer watchdog, a recommendation very much with the interests of consumers at heart. That’s why, after deep consideration, the Labor Party was the first party to announce our support for this offer. Rod Sims, the chair of the ACCC, considered this over 12 or 18 months, after a very deep enquiry into the market and we’re confident that this recommendation is the right one.

JOURNALIST: Should default pricing need the support of the state that it applies to?

BUTLER: Obviously, the states have been considering the report since Rod Sims released it last year as well. We’re confident this is a recommendation that should be implemented in the interests of consumers and that’s why we’ve been supporting it for more than half a year.

JOURNALIST: If elected will you review this system to make sure retailers aren’t making more money in a year?

BUTLER: Of course, I think there needs to be eternal vigilance about the operation of the electricity market at the moment to make sure it finally starts to work in the interests of consumers instead of big, privatised electricity companies. That, I think, is what Australians are so sick of - having watched their privatised electricity systems in a number of states, like South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, operate in the interests of big companies instead of in the interests of consumers, and that’s what Labor is focused on.

JOURNALIST: Just briefly on a local matter, we’ve got the development, Fletcher’s Slip, in Port Adelaide, do you have any reservations about the re-development of Port Adelaide more broadly at the moment?

BUTLER: Well I think there always need a very firm eye on development that preserves the extraordinary maritime heritage of Port Adelaide. We just have such a rich heritage down in the Port, Fletcher’s Slip among them, an extraordinary piece of maritime heritage and all development across the river front needs to make sure that we preserve that heritage.