DOORSTOP: 20/12/18

December 20, 2018


MARK BUTLER: Thanks for coming out this morning. This morning we’ve seen an absolutely devastating critique of Scott Morrison’s energy policy from his own New South Wales Liberal Party colleague, New South Wales Energy Minister Don Harwin. In an oped published in the Financial Review Minister Harwin describes Scott Morrison’s failure to proceed with the National Energy Guarantee as something that would lead to higher wholesale prices and, to use Minister Harwin’s words, would mean “bad news for households and for businesses.” In a further interview with the Financial Review, Minister Harwin has described Scott Morrison’s energy policy as “out of touch” and something that is “preventing prices from falling.”

I remember that it was only two weeks ago when the LNP Leader in Queensland, Deb Frecklington, also described Scott Morrison’s energy policy as out of touch because of its plans to facilitate the privatisation of Queensland’s energy assets.

Now, we even see Scott Morrison’s own party colleagues, from his home state of New South Wales calling out the toxic ideology that drives the energy policy of the Morrison Government. Scott Morrison stands completely isolated in his refusal to implement the National Energy Guarantee. Opposed by every single business group in the nation, and now deserted even by his own New South Wales Liberal Party colleagues. Households and businesses across Australia are paying the price because of this dogged ideological position from Scott Morrison through higher and higher power prices.   

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the New South Wales Energy Minister’s comments – what sort of situation must he be in to come up publicly?

BUTLER: I think he’s taken soundings from the business community. He has talked to households in the New South Wales community who recognise that the best solution to the energy crisis that has emerged under this Government is a bipartisan solution that brings energy and climate policy together. We had that in the National Energy Guarantee. Scott Morrison himself said he had never come across a policy in his ten years in Parliament that had a broader base of consensus then the National Energy Guarantee, but at the end of the day he kowtowed to the Tony Abbott hard-right in the Coalition party room and deserted that policy. The New South Wales Government has finally called him out on that. 

JOURNALIST: Will you support the Government’s big stick policy when Parliament resumes?

BUTLER: We don’t support the divestiture policy because we take advice from the consumer watchdog, the ACCC. You’d think that if this policy was in the interest of consumers then the consumer watchdog would have recommended it after two years of exhaustive inquiry into the electricity industry. But we know from Rod Sims, the ACCC Chairman’s own mouth, he deeply considered this question and rejected it as, in his words, an “extreme measure” that would not lead to any lowering of power prices. So we will take advice from the consumer watchdog we won’t follow the Morrison Government’s desperate attempt to grab a headline because they don’t have a serious energy policy.

JOURNALIST: The Government says it will reach its emissions reduction targets. Is that enough?

BUTLER: All that they have been able to say is that because of Labor’s Renewable Energy Target there will be emissions reduction in the electricity sector. There is no policy in place to achieve even their unambitious, inadequate targets across the rest of the economy. There is no policy in place to bring down emissions in the transport sector, in the industrial sector and the land sector. Because of that the Government’s own data shows that by 2030, under this Government’s policies, we are going to miss our already inadequate Paris targets by a whopping 22 or 23 per cent. 

JOURNALIST: Mark just shifting tact a little bit. What do you make of Andrew Broad’s conduct?

BUTLER: I don’t have anything to add to the very extensive commentary around Andrew Broad’s personal situation. That is obviously now a matter for him and his family. Or to the fact that Michael McCormack appears to have sat on this for several weeks, not even bothering to tell the Prime Minister about this brewing scandal. I think there’s been enough commentary about this and I don’t propose to add anything to it.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe he should leave Parliament immediately?

BUTLER: This is a matter for Andrew Broad and for the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. They need to, I guess, take control of the situation that has been out of control now for several weeks.

JOURNALIST: Do you suspect he was told not to leave Parliament because it was a minority Government?

BUTLER: I don’t have anything to add to the speculation that is already around that.

JOURNALIST: I’ll just ask one more; Craig Thompson did not leave Parliament in 2012. Do you think it was acceptable for Broad to stay on?

BUTLER: That is a matter for Andrew Broad, his family, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST: Obviously we’ve got the Energy COAG, Energy Ministers meeting in town today. What do you make of the memorandum of understanding reached between South Australia and New South Wales on the interconnector?

BUTLER: I haven’t been able to study the detail of that yet, I’m not sure if it has even been published. Obviously this has been a matter under consideration by both state governments and also been proposed by the operator, the proposed operator of that interconnector, for some time. There are obviously some significant opportunities for South Australia to be able to export renewable energy to New South Wales, some good opportunities for both jurisdictions as well. We want to study that MoU.
The Market Operator has proposed an Integrated Systems Plan that really does set a pathway for more renewable energy through the course of the coming decade that would need additional interconnection between jurisdictions. So without looking at the detail I think as a matter of principle this is something the Market Operator has suggested would be a good thing overtime.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it would keep the lights on in South Australia?

BUTLER: The Market Operator has already indicated its view that South Australia is expected to stay within the reliability requirements of the National Electricity Market.