TUESDAY, 4 DECEMBER 2018
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Good morning everyone, thanks for coming. Mark and I will make some brief statements before taking questions and then as you will understand Mark and I have a Caucus meeting to get to so will take a few questions from you.
Well last night the Liberal Party held an emergency meeting. What was the big issue that the party of Government was discussing? Was it low wages growth and what to do about it? Was it spiralling energy prices and what to do about it? Was the concerns of the Australian people? The future of the country?
No. The Liberal Party held an emergency meeting to talk about themselves, to talk about Liberal leadership. Nothing says stability like an emergency meeting and a 9 pm press conference from the Prime Minister and the Deputy Leader. Meanwhile the Government’s one poor excuse for an energy policy has collapsed under its own weight. The Government’s figleaf when it comes to electricity prices, it’s so-called big stick has overnight become a much littler stick.
This ridiculous policy, this Venezuelan style intervention, this intervention in the economy which would chill investment has collapsed under its own weight. It was poor policy and it has shown to be poor policy. And the Treasurer and the Energy Minister have been humiliated by their own Liberal Party backbench, forced to remove the key elements of the divestment policy. No longer with the have the power to force development from energy companies. This was a policy which was always ridiculous, it was not recommended by the ACCC, not recommend by any independent inquiry. Not a result of proper consideration but an excuse for a policy after the National Energy Guarantee collapsed and now the latest iteration of Government college electricity policy. Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Energy Policy 27.0 has been destroyed by their own party.
Well the only party of Government with an energy policy is the Labor Party, announced two weeks ago by Bill Mark and I, our energy policy which provides a proper framework for investment, which encourages stability and certainty for investment. Only a Shorten Labor Government can deliver that and then Morrison Government has shown time and time again and that they can’t but this latest thought bubble, I hesitate to say thought bubble because it’s unfair to thought bubbles, to say that this divestment policy thought bubble has collapse and it just goes to show that when it comes to energy policy the Liberal Party just isn’t up to the job.
They are pathologically incapable of delivering the country and energy policy, the latest one, the latest in a long line has collapsed overnight. The Government said they would introduce the legislation before Christmas, that means this week. Well show us the legislation, show us the legislation, get on and introduce it like you said you would. That’s Josh Frydenberg’s job today but the Labor Party will continue to stand for good policy. We won’t have a bar of this policy on the run, we won’t have a bar of this crazy Venezuelan-style policy that they are imposing. We will stick to our energy policy announced several weeks ago and we will seek a mandate to implement it. I will ask Mark to add to my remarks and then we will take some questions.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR ENERGY: Thank you Chris. Well Australia is in the throes of a very deep energy crisis and Australian households and businesses that use large amounts of energy are paying the price for this ongoing chaos and division in the Coalition Party room around energy policy. As Chris just said this Party room appears to be genetically incapable of uniting on energy policy. Whether it’s the National Energy Guarantee that was promised to save households $550 or whether it was this latest so called ‘big stick’ policy that was grabbed out of thin air, a fatuous attempt to put together a grab bag of headlines that was never recommended by any expert agency.
Whether it was the ACCC, the consumer watchdog which undertook a lengthy inquiry into the electricity industry over the last 12 or 18 months and deliberately chose not to recommend this divestiture policy. Or going back to Ian Harper’s Competition Policy Review that again did not recommend this because they understood it would not be in the interest of consumers. The last thing this sector needs is a further chilling of investment at a time when 75 per cent of our existing thermal generators are already operating beyond their design life, we need investor confidence that will build the new supply and put downward pressure on power prices.
So this new Energy Minister has said his only KPI is to bring down power prices. This is a policy carefully designed not to do that, carefully designed to push power prices up not push them down. And already we are seeing the futures market at 40 per cent since June, at 40 per cent on wholesale power prices since June which is exactly what the Government’s own modelling showed would happen if the National Energy Guarantee was not implemented. That’s why of course we found out last week that the only jurisdiction that is reviewing its tariffs before next July, which is Victoria, for January changes to tariffs for households saw almost every energy company in Victoria either hold their tariffs flat absorbing very significant additional costs or increase their tariffs. There was only one major company that actually reduced power prices for Melburnians or Victorians last week and that would save households the princely sum of 44 cents per week. That is the best that Angus Taylor has been able to do. One company saving some households 44 cents per week.
The rest of the country is going to see increasing power prices until this Government is able to get its act together on energy policy.
BOWEN: Over to you folks.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Liberal Party was too slow to learn from Labor's own mistakes when they were forced to introduce similar rules in 2013?
BOWEN: Well I think that's self-evident. I mean five years late to the party. Of course we have a very different set of rules which involve our party members having a say int he party leadership. But I think it just says it all about the Liberal Party. You know we dealt with this five years ago. They remain focused on themselves.
JOURNALIST: How is what happened last night any different to what happened under Kevin Rudd in 2013 with the changes then?
BOWEN: Well in 2013 we took a decision to give our party members a say in the leadership, as well as providing thresholds for leadership changes. Of course we've complied with that but more importantly we changed our culture as a party. We decided to focus on unity, to focus on what's on important to the Australian people, stability and policy leadership. That's what we've done for five years. If Mr Morrison thinks holding an emergency last night meeting screams unity and stability, good luck to him.
JOURNALIST: Has a deal been done on encryption?
BOWEN: No, I understand the Attorney General and Shadow Attorney General have had some discussions. I'll leave him to update you on that. But I see reports today that Mr Morrison doesn't want to do deal with Labor because he wants the political wedge. Well doesn't that say it all about Scott Morrison? Prepared to play politics on a matter like this? If that's the case, if that report is accurate. I mean the Labor Party has been crystal clear. We are more than happy to support legislation which is sensible, which provides security agencies with the resources they need but which has the appropriate safeguards in place. Now the joint Standing Committee on Intelligence is one of the most respected committees in this place, it should have been allowed to do its work. Mr Morrison and Mr Dutton have decided to politicise the issue. We'll stand for good policy.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the divestment rules are going to see the light of day before the election?
BOWEN: Well I said that the Government said that they would introduce them this week. They should do so now. I mean bring it on. We are up for the argument. This Government is so hopeless, who would know whether they actually can, given they're busily, presumably, re-writing the laws overnight down at the Treasury, with all due respect to the Treasury, given an impossible task by the policy dysfunction of this Government. Regardless of when we see it, the Labor Party will stick with good policy and this divestment policy on the run is not good policy.
JOURNALIST: Are you getting a little bit concerned about what's going on in the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets and how that may play into the wider economy?
BOWEN: Well, of course what we've seen is a softening at the moment. This is nothing new. Of course we've seen this softening for some time in the Sydney and Melbourne property markets. The Government seems to say that property price falls under them are great and property price falls under Labor are a disaster. That's shorter Josh Frydenberg. I encourage him to make sa video about the matter. But we remain focused on good policy. Our negative gearing reform is the right reform. It was designed for a whole range of market circumstances, designed to be fit for purpose regardless of what is happening in the market. And of course we have had that policy for a long time and will take it to the election.
Any other questions? Great, thank you.