SATURDAY, 10 JUNE 2017
MARK BUTLER MP, SHADOW CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY MINISTER, MEMBER FOR PORT ADELAIDE: Thanks for coming out this morning. Federal Labor is very heartened by the initial responses to the Finkel Review. Particularly, from the state governments yesterday, both Liberal and Labor alike, but also from the business community, the electricity industry and a range of other stakeholders. We have a very serious energy crisis confronting this country, wholesale power prices have doubled under this government and it is starting to feed into consumer bills. We are seeing increases of 30 per cent across most of the states, hitting households, small business and also big business.
We are very concerned at the uprising within the Coalition around the definition of clean energy. We’ve seen it from the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, the existing Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, and now also the Chair of the Coalition’s climate change and energy policy committee, Craig Kelly. They are trying to rig the definition of clean energy to accommodate new coal-fired power. You simply can’t rig the definition of clean energy to bring in coal-fired power, it is a nonsense and if that is the basis on which Malcolm Turnbull wants to start negotiations with other parties, including Federal Labor, then negotiations are not going to go very far.
JOURNALIST: So is your support for this scheme conditional on there being no support for coal?
BUTLER: Well, you can’t have a definition of clean energy that incorporates new coal-fired power stations. It makes a nonsense of the whole process. I think the sooner Malcolm Turnbull makes that clear and stares down this uprising within the Coalition to try and rig the definition of clean energy; the sooner we can start doing some sensible work.
JOURNALIST: There is talk of a Clean Energy Target of 0.6, is that too high or too low?
BUTLER: Look we’re going to consider the report carefully, and there are different arguments around different thresholds, around 0.5, 0.6, 0.7. We want to consider the report carefully, particularly to talk to business, unions, environment groups and other stakeholders about the recommendations and not take a closed approach. But you have to be serious, you have to be honest with people, you cannot rig the definition of clean energy to bring in new coal-fired power stations, it would just make a nonsense of the hard work that Dr Finkel and his panel have done.
JOURNALIST: Do you have a target in mind?
BUTLER: No we don’t have a target in mind, we are going to keep an open mind. We need to make sure that this is a process that stimulates the deployment of genuine clean energy. That is the basis in which we come to the table here.
JOURNALIST: So what happens if this proposal falls over?
BUTLER: Well, if this proposal falls over because Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce tried to rig the definition of clean energy, we are going to continue to see plummeting security in our system and sky-rocketing prices. That is not what Australians expect from their national Parliament. That is why Malcolm Turnbull needs to be clear at the outset, that he is not going to tolerate a rigging of the definition of clean energy to bring in new coal-fired power stations.
JOURNALIST: Could there be a return of the climate wars?
BUTLER: There is still a lot of work to do, to start to get a sensible energy policy in this national Parliament. We’ve received a very important report from Dr Finkel and his panel, that gives the ammunition to the Parliament to turn a new page on this, but there is still a lot of hard work to do.
JOURNALIST: We’ve heard from Craig Kelly that more modelling is needed on a CET to see how it would effect the economy. Is that just kicking the issue down the road?
BUTLER: A lot of modelling has been done around all of these issues. There was plenty of modelling done on an Emissions Intensity Scheme, we are now working through the modelling that was done for the Finkel Review. We are going to talk to business groups about whether there are other things that they want to study or model a bit more carefully.
But I think what Craig Kelly is trying to do here is simply to stifle any progress. He is trying to set this up to make sure that the only way there is process in the national Parliament is by rigging the definition of clean energy to incorporate new coal-fired power stations.
JOURNALIST: What would your message be to householders who pick up the paper and read about their power bills going up by $350 a year?
BUTLER: This is a terrible impost on households. At a time when you have record flat wages growth, at a time when people working in retail and hospitality on Sunday’s are facing cuts to their penalty rates, and also at a time when Malcolm Turnbull is determined to cut the energy supplement to all new pensioners, worth about $350 per year if he gets his way. So at the time when people's income is flat, they are seeing very significant increases in their household power bills. And we know why those increases are happening, it is because of policy paralysis under the Turnbull Government.
JOURNALIST: Just on another topic, what do you make of the UK election and what it all means for the Labor movement here, with Jeremy Corbyn’s success?
BUTLER: It’s very hard to draw any lessons from one country to another. It’s obviously been a pretty hard-fought campaign between the two major parties in the UK. There is still a bit of water to go under the bridge. Jeremy Corbyn obviously ran a very strong campaign and exceeded everyone’s expectations I think.
JOURNALIST: Is Bill Shorten the right man for the job or do you need someone more like Corbyn or Bernie Sanders?
BUTLER: Well, you can’t draw lessons from the United States or the UK and import them into Australia. Bill is doing a fantastic job as Labor leader, we have been united, we’ve been disciplined and we have been holding this government to account.
Thanks very much.