SAM CROSBY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR REID: G’Day everyone and thanks for joining us here in Strathfield in the heart of Reid. We’re here with Mark Butler, obviously, and Reverend Alimoni. It’s a fantastic announcement that Mark’s going to take you through in a minute here. A couple of years ago my parents did what most people of their generation did who live in Lewisham, which is that they went out and put solar panels on their house. That’s a great thing – it reduced their energy bill, it reduced their load on the grid – it’s a great thing. But obviously they’re in a socioeconomic band that is quite privileged, and as wonderful as that is for them there is a whole stream of people out there who aren’t able to take those same actions; who aren’t able to put solar panels on their rooves because they rent, or because they live in an apartment building or because they just can’t afford the outlay of the thousands and thousands of dollars that it takes to then repay over time through reduced power bills. So the announcement that Mark’s going to make today is really aimed at covering off that gap, which I have to say is the most Labor of all initiatives. Not only taking care of the environment, but taking care of lower and middle income families, that’s what the Labor party is all about. So I’ll hand over to you Mark.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Thank you Sam, and Reverend, and so many other members of the community here in Western Sydney for this really exciting announcement. As Sam, our fantastic candidate for the seat of Reid, has said, the Labor party is the party of renewable energy.
When we came to government in 2007 there were only 7000 houses in the whole country that had solar panels on their roof. Because of the Renewable Energy Target that Penny Wong put in place in 2009, there are now 2 million households with solar panels on their roof and that’s growing by a few hundred thousand houses every single year. Labor wants to build on that by giving people access to the exciting new household battery technology with a program to give subsidies to 100,000 households on the way to a target of 1 million households having batteries by 2025. This is going to be great for household power bills; it’s going to be great for the stability of the system.
But, as Sam said, as well as being the party of renewable energy, the Labor party’s driving mission for 130 years has been social and economic equality. What we have seen through that solar revolution is a widening gap between the haves and the have nots. This revolution has overwhelmingly been a revolution for people who own, and who occupy their usually semi-detached or detached house. So if you’re a renter, if you live in public housing, or if you live in an apartment building in areas like Strathfield, you are cut out of that solar revolution. That is something that we are absolutely committed to closing.
A while ago Bill Shorten and I announced a $100 million Community Renewables program. That would create a number of hubs around Australia that would be focussed on closing that gap. Here today I’m really excited to announce the fifth Community Renewable Hub, here in Western Sydney.
Almost 12 months ago I had a meeting with the Voices for Power campaign from the Sydney Alliance, which taps into a range of really exciting community groups across Western Sydney. They talked to me about that gap – the frustration that members of their community have in not having access to solar panels on their roof for one of the reasons I mentioned. They also talked to me about energy literacy issues. This is a very complex market; it’s very difficult to navigate. This is a group that has committed to closing the gap for members of their community. That’s why I’m so delighted to announce that if elected on May 18th, we would create the fifth Community Renewables Hub here in Western Sydney in partnership with the Sydney Alliance. We’ve been really struck by not just the passion by their faith and community leaders, but the power of the research behind it. I’m absolutely convinced this will be a really exciting initiative that will go a long way to closing the gap for this part of Australia.
Congratulations to the Sydney Alliance for the work that they’ve done and I really look forward, if we’re lucky enough to be elected on May 18th, to see this Community Renewables Hub a reality in Western Sydney.
REVERAND ALIMONI, SYDNEY ALLIANCE: Thank you Sam and Mark. What wonderful wonderful news that is for us as a community. Today’s announcement comes after two years of campaigning by the Sydney Alliance and the Voices for Power campaign. Community leaders from seven different communities in Western Sydney, myself included, have tirelessly worked to raise the concerns of our community in relation to energy bills; in relation to weather worsening and more extreme in our region, and their frustration at unable to access renewable energy solutions that can help. As temperature and costs rise up and up in Western Sydney the community leaders and I have heard countless stories who are struggling. People who are experiencing heat stress in summer, and freezing in winter. That is because they cannot keep their air conditioner on for too long for themselves. We want this Hub to be a cost effect for this, and we know that that will also help with climate change in our region. We want to see accessibility for all these communities that are standing behind me. The physical and mental health of children and families are being challenged because of this. It shouldn’t be that way. We want to give this Community Hub as a gift to this community – a place where everyday people can learn about how they can access affordable renewable energy, and get credible information from people they trust - even the language they can understand. We welcome Federal Labor’s commitment to establish the community hub here in Western Sydney and we would also like to call on the Liberal National Government to match this commitment. Whichever party ends up in government after May 18 there must be a bipartisan commitment to work with our communities to address the energy and climate injustices that all of us are facing. So I do look forward to working with policy makers to make this community hub a reality, and also for Western Sydney to join Australia’s renewable energy revolution that should be for all of us. Thank you.
BUTLER: Would anyone like to ask questions?
JOURNALIST: Obviously this is part of your climate change policies; has Labor been able to put a dollar figure on the total cost of its climate change policies?
BUTLER: Chris Bowen and Jim Chalmers later this morning will be conducting a press conference about our costings. There’s already been some media coverage of the costings of our climate change and energy package; these have been independently costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, released when we first announced our energy policy before Christmas at Bloomberg here in Sydney. We’re very confident that this is well and truly costed, and manageable under the final Budget costings that Chris Bowen and Jim Chalmers will be releasing later this morning.
JOURNALIST: You must be aware of the figure that they will release today, are you able to explain that?
BUTLER: I’ll leave that to our economic spokespeople to talk about. This is a $100 million commitment that we’ve made in the area of community renewables to create 10 hubs and also to create a back-of-house support system that will be delivered by the Moreland Energy Foundation in Victoria, independently costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, and a program that will make a real difference to communities like this one.
JOURNALIST: Having said that, I presume you’ll be the Climate Change Minister if elected; why have a media conference before the Chris Bowen’s announcement if you’re not able to tell us the total cost?
BUTLER: The total cost of the climate and energy package? That’s been out in the public realm since, really since we announced our energy package last December, and when we announced the remainder of our climate package in April so this is a set of costings that have been published, done independently by the Parliamentary Budget Office, and come in well-short of the extraordinary waste of tax payer’s money that you see in the Emissions Reduction Fund that Scott Morrison has been continuing from Tony Abbott.
JOURNALIST: On another issue, the Liberal candidate Gurpal Singh has pulled out and obviously candidates on both sides have been pulling out because of their views. Do these cases show that there’s a serious failure in the vetting process of both major parties?
BUTLER: It’s extraordinary that the Prime Minister stood by this candidate for as long as he did, down in Victoria the candidate for Scullin, and it’s pleasing to see finally that he’s decided he’s not a fit candidate for public office. Obviously, I think all parties will be having a think about vetting processes, but I think it is extraordinary that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison stood by this candidate for as long as he did.
JOURNALIST: So do you think that Labor needs to look at stronger vetting processes?
BUTLER: I think all parties will be reviewing their vetting processes, really in the light of the spread of social media and the impact that that has on campaigns.
JOURNALIST: What do you think this says about federal politics in general that there are arguably disreputable characters running for office?
BUTLER: I think that’s a matter for reflection after the election campaign. At the moment, particularly in the last eight days before the election we’re focussed as a Labor party on getting out there and talking about our vision for Australia’s future including climate action and energy security.
JOURNALIST: In terms of the vetting process do you think that the public deserves a higher standard?
BUTLER: As I said, this is something we’ll reflect upon after the election campaign. It is extraordinary that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stood by some of the candidates that he has stood by for as long as he has, including the candidate for Scullin, but in the last eight days of the campaign we’re focussed on getting out there and focussing on our vision for Australia, including this one.
JOURNALIST: Just more broadly, the Treasurers of three states have said that Labor’s negative gearing policy will hit their stamp duty and GST revenues, they’re calling for Labor to make up for that short fall if they’re elected. Can you make that promise?
BUTLER: This is the sort of Liberal party point scoring – I note that they’re all Liberal party Treasurers in the final eight days – I’ll leave Chris Bowen and Jim Chalmers to rebut their clearly base political claims that have been published in the media today, but this policy has been out there since 2015, subject to a lot of analysis that completely rebuts the sort of scare campaigns that we’ve seen from a number of state Liberal Treasurers over the last 24 hours.
I wouldn’t mind just addressing the front page of the Daily Telegraph today where the Liberal Party has also announced its 14th energy policy in just three years.
Angus Taylor’s announcement today amounts to ‘trust me’. I have to say I’m not sure why any Australian would trust this government on energy policy after they’ve seen their power bills go up, and up, and up.
What Scott Morrison has presided over after dumping the National Energy Guarantee, which they promised would see reductions in power bills, is wholesale power prices in just his nine months as Prime Minister climb by a whopping 28 per cent, and we only saw reports in the last couple days that the first quarter of 2019 here in New South Wales saw the highest wholesale power prices on record, ever. So if you have to ask why on earth any Australian would trust this government, particularly under this Prime Minister, when their only plan is to build a fleet of high-priced, heavily polluting coal-fired power stations.