TUESDAY, 27 NOVEMBER 2018
MARK BUTLER: Last week Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen and I made an offer to the Government to return to the table and finish the work from three months ago to deliver the National Energy Guarantee. Scott Morrison had said all through the course of this year that that policy had a broader base of consensus than any other proposition he had seen in his ten years in Parliament. He and Josh Frydenberg reminded households pretty much every day that delivering the National Energy Guarantee would result in a cut in their power bills of about $550. We made that offer last week in good faith and within 24 or 36 hours every business organisation in the country had urged the Government to return to the table, for the reason that everyone knows, because this is the best way to bring Scott Morrison’s energy crisis to an end.
Over the past 48 hours, since the Victorian state election, we have seen a bevy of Coalition MPs, particularly Liberal Party MPs; say that this Government needs to take a more reasonable position on climate change, a more progressive position on climate change. This morning we’ve got the former Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Julie Bishop, urging Scott Morrison to return to the table and finish the work on the National Energy Guarantee.
So I say to Mr Morrison, this morning you have a Coalition party room meeting. We have two weeks of Parliament set for the rest of the year. We are ready to start discussions this afternoon on finishing the work of the National Energy Guarantee. It is in the best interest of Australian business as they have made clear over the last few days, and Australian households that Scott Morrison stop taking dictation from Tony Abbott on climate and energy policy and start putting the interests of Australians first.
JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop says the NEG is the only framework in which the Coalition and Labor can agree in terms of Australia’s energy policy. Do you agree with that statement?
BUTLER: I think the evidence of the last two years shows that to be true. In 2016 we almost thought we were going to get an Emissions Intensity Scheme agreed between the two major parties. Last year we almost got agreement on the Clean Energy Target, which was a proposal from Mr Turnbull following a report from the Chief Scientist. I think we all recognise that this year, the National Energy Guarantee, was the last best chance to get a bipartisan agreement to find a way out of the energy crisis that has emerged under this Government. A crisis that has caused power prices to skyrocket and confidence in the reliability of our system to plummet. Yes Julie Bishop is right; this is the last best chance for a solution to the energy crisis that has the support of both parties. That’s why we made our offer last week.
JOURNALIST: But it doesn’t have the support of everybody in the Coalition, do you think it is going to be a hard sell for Scott Morrison to put it back on the table?
BUTLER: Let’s remember the National Energy Guarantee was supported by a vote in the Coalition party room three times earlier this year. It might not have unanimous support but it is a question as to whether Scott Morrison is going to give into a loud minority in the Coalition party room - out of touch with business, out of touch with the views of Australians - or whether he is going to have the courage to bring a proposition to the Parliament that would have the overwhelming support of both houses of Parliament and start to bring an end to this energy crisis.
JOURNALIST: Do you think climate change was a factor in the Victorian election?
BUTLER: Victorian Liberal MPs are saying it was a factor. Victorian Liberal MPs are lining up and saying that people were talking to them on polling booths and in the days leading up to the election about the problems they saw with this Government’s posture on climate and energy. This is not new but it has been something Liberal Party MP after Liberal Party MP has said over the last several days. There must be some truth in that.
JOURNALIST: If climate policy has been catastrophic for the Coalition in terms of the Victorian election and potentially the next election, why do you want to help them out with a potential deal on the NEG?
BUTLER: Because we know the best way out of the energy crisis that has emerged under this Government is a bipartisan one. As Julie Bishop has said this morning, the way in which energy companies will have confidence to make the investments we need in our energy system is to have bipartisan support for an investment framework. Julie Bishop has made those points very eloquently this morning but business group after business group made that point on Thursday and Friday after Bill Shorten released Labor’s energy policy. A bipartisan solution is the best solution to the energy crisis.
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