SUNDAY, 28 JULY 2019
MARK BUTLER: Thanks for coming out this morning. Since 2015 Australia has been suffering through the worst energy crisis we’ve experienced since the mid 1970s. Australian household budgets have been smashed by rising wholesale power prices and tens of thousands of jobs, particularly in the manufacturing industry, have been placed at risk.
Data from the Energy Market Operator shows that wholesale power prices since 2015 have skyrocketed by a whopping 158 per cent, which is feeding into power bills that have gone up, and up, and up, year upon year. It’s very clear now the Government has no plan to turn that around.
During the last term of Parliament this Government had 14 different energy policies and didn’t manage to stick to a single one of them. After last week’s session in Parliament it is clear the only plan being discussed in Government circles now is to build a fleet of massively expensive nuclear power stations up and down the Australian coast.
Now the Minister who has responsibility for this, Angus Taylor, has been a key driver in smashing the energy policies that have been proposed during the last term of Parliament.
Angus Taylor has two important jobs for the Australian people: get carbon emissions down in the face of climate change and to get household power prices down. He is failing dismally at both of them. But the problem for the Australian people and Scott Morrison is not just that Angus Taylor is a massively incompetent minister, they also have a Minister who is embroiled in a growing scandal over whether or not he sought to interfere in a compliance action, by his own department, over illegal land clearing on a property in which he had a financial interest which he had not disclosed. He had not disclosed that financial interest to the Parliament, to the Australian people and it would appear not even to the Prime Minister.
Everyday more questions emerge about this under sieged Minister and it is critically important that the Parliament support Labor’s idea this week for a full inquiry into this growing scandal over Angus Taylor.
JOURNALIST: Are you confident on getting the numbers on this? Rex Patrick has tweeted he would support, do you have enough numbers to get it across the line?
BUTLER: Well we hope we do have the support of the Senate. I’m glad to see Rex Patrick has changed his tune from last week. I understand that he opposed the inquiry last week because the Government showed him a letter that had been written more than 6 months after the meeting that is at the heart of this scandal. It is good that Rex has reflected on that and changed his position. I hope that the Government supports this inquiry. After sustained questioning of Angus Taylor last week in the Parliament it is clear that there are questions to answer here. It’s very clear that Angus Taylor has failed to disclose a material financial interest in accordance with his obligations not just as a member of Parliament but also as a Minister. There are very serious questions over what led to this meeting taking place in the first place and to the extent to which Angus Taylor was seeking to interfere in a compliance action in a property in which he held a financial interest.
JOURNALIST: What will Penny Wong be doing tomorrow in regards to the motion?
BUTLER: We moved that an inquiry be established in the Senate, obviously at the moment we don’t have the support in the House of Representatives, by the government, to enquire into this growing scandal but we hope that the Crossbench and the Senate would support our view that there is a growing public interest here. We hope that with a change of heart by Rex Patrick and Centre Alliance we will have the support of enough senators to see that inquiry take place because there are very serious questions here that the Australian people deserve an answer to.
BUTLER: No we are very clear - it is what Members of Parliament have to do. The system has been in place for years, every Member of Parliament should be utterly clear that if they have a direct or indirect financial interest it needs to be put on the register. Angus Taylor pretended in Parliament, after we questioned him in question time, that he had no association with this land when he quite clearly admitted in a later answer that he knew in fact he did have an indirect interest in this land, which he is under an obligation to declare.
BUTLER: I’m confident that Mark Dreyfus and Tanya Plibersek have complied with their obligations as Members of Parliament.
JOURNALIST: A group of Nationals apparently are getting modelling on increasing Newstart, which is coming to some discomfort to members of the Coalition about the level of Newstart. Do you think the Prime Minister can hold on for very long on this issue and not give into an inquiry?
BUTLER: Increasingly it looks like the only person who doesn’t think there should be an increase to Newstart is Scott Morrison. John Howard supports an increase in Newstart. Many, many of Scott Morrison’s own MPs, including National Party MPs, support an increase because it is becoming increasingly clear the current rate is unsustainable.
JOURNALIST: Do you accept then if it is increasing it is tied to a cashless welfare card?
BUTLER: Look I think that is all material that needs to be worked through but I think the starting point has to be the Prime Minister recognising that Newstart is too low and it needs to be increased.
JOURNALIST: Paul Fletcher has refused to deny that he intervened to an inquiry to raise the rate of Newstart. Why did Labor committee members allow that and the recommendation was bipartisan?
BUTLER: I’m sorry I think you’re going to have to repeat that again, why did?
JOURNALIST: Paul Fletcher has refused to deny that he intervened in an inquiry recommendation to raise Newstart. Labor committee members didn’t intervene on that process so why has Labor committed to raising Newstart post election?
BUTLER: Prior to the election the Labor Party had a very clear view that if we were lucky enough to win the election we would undertake a proper review that would examine the review to raise Newstart. There have been a number of statements from Bill Shorten and others that our starting position was Newstart had to go up but there had to be a proper review to determine by how much and its interaction with other government payments and suchlike. Now we didn’t win the election. It is now incumbent on the Government to reflect on the growing consensus around the country, in the community and in the business sector, that Newstart needs to go up.
JOURNALIST: An Australian swimmer has declared she tested positive to an illegal substance. Do you think there is a scenario now that Australia may be accused of chucking stones in glass houses?
BUTLER: Look I’ll leave that to the proper authorities, I’m not an expert in these affairs.
JOURNALIST: On Netflix, Paul Fletcher has indicated that streaming services like Netflix and YouTube could be subject to the same local content laws as free to air channels. Would Labor support that?
BUTLER: This reflects a report that had only just been received. We are working through that carefully and are considering its recommendations carefully. Obviously these are important issues in an area that’s changing very very quickly. This is an important public matter and we will be taking this report very carefully as we make our way through it.