Doorstop interview 8/10/2019

October 08, 2019


SUBJECTS: Power bills, National Energy Guarantee, Grattan Institute Report, Malcolm Turnbull energy comments, Election Review, submarines.

MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Today Australians woke up to another two reports this morning that remind them that they are paying the price for the Coalition’s pig-headed ideology on climate change and energy policy through power bills that just keep going up and up and up. I saw in an interview with The Australian newspaper, Malcolm Turnbull has squarely laid the blame at the feet of the Coalition’s energy policy chaos, for rising carbon emissions and sky-rocketing power prices. And the Grattan Institute this morning has confirmed that the Coalition’s pig-headed ideology on climate change and energy has delivered an extra $1 billion in additional mega profits to the big three private power companies, all paid for by Australian households and businesses. This policy chaos has resulted in the most serious energy crisis to afflict Australia since the mid-1970s. Since it began in the 2015, this crisis has seen wholesale power prices rise by about 158 per cent and the market expects those prices to continue rising, with forward estimates up to 29 per cent higher than when the National Energy Guarantee was dumped back in 2018. It is time for Scott Morrison to stop the ideology and return to the table on the National Energy Guarantee, bringing this crisis to an end.

JOURNALIST: Specifically, do you think the Government’s plan to underwrite energy projects should just be scrapped instantly?

BUTLER: This is again a reminder that instead of Angus Taylor picking his favourite coal-fired power station project, what we need is a National Energy Guarantee policy that was supported by every single business group in the country and every state government, Liberal and Labor alike, those sorts of policies are going to bring this crisis to an end and finally see some power prices relief for Australian households and businesses.

JOURNALIST: Is any hope for a National Energy Guarantee anymore?

BUTLER: The only hold out on sensible, coherent energy policy is, as Malcolm Turnbull reminded us again this morning, is the Federal Coalition party room that is just paralysed by the ideology on climate change and energy.

JOURNALIST: Turnbull says his biggest regret as PM is not getting an energy policy through, do you accept the role Labor played in stopping the NEG pass in the Parliament?

BUTLER: No, I don’t accept that role. We were ready to work with Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal and Labor State Governments to deliver the National Energy Guarantee. It was the Coalition party room, it was people like Tony Abbott and Angus Taylor that conducted an ambush on Malcolm Turnbull and stopped the National Energy Guarantee going ahead. What we knew from Scott Morrison, Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg at the time was that the National Energy Guarantee would have seen power bills come down by $550 for Australian households, on average. But the failure of the National Energy Guarantee going through would see power bills rise by about $300 and that is what we’re seeing come to pass because of the pig-headed ideology of people like Angus Taylor and the hard-right within the Coalition party room.

JOURNALIST: What are the consequences of high power prices?

BUTLER: We’re seeing household budgets being wrecked by power prices that continue to go up and up and up. And we’re also seeing Australian businesses, particularly high energy using manufacturing businesses have their viability directly threatened, placing at risk tens of thousands of good, well-paying manufacturing jobs. That’s why it’s so important that this energy crisis, the worst that we’ve seen since the mid-1970s be brought to an end and the only way that can happen is for Scott Morrison to stop the ideology and stare down the hard-right within his own party room and return to the table around a sensible, coherent national energy policy of the type that the Grattan Institute has recommended again this morning.

JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten has named franking credits as a mistake that could have cost Labor the last election, how a big of a contribution do you think your climate policy was to Labor’s loss?

BUTLER: I’ve said that the election review that’s being led by Jay Weatherill and Craig Emerson should be unsparing, it should be comprehensive, it will be uncomfortable for those of us in the Labor party that played a role in seeing us lose our third election in a row. But I’m not going to pre-empt the review, I respect the process, I respect the ability for people to make submissions to that review and I’ll await its outcome.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of this tweet from the French Naval Group Australia group showing a briefing for the French Government which appeared to show plans for submarine maintenance that we haven’t seen yet.

BUTLER: I’ve only seen a very brief report on it, I don’t pretend to have enough information to respond to that.

JOURNALIST: It appears that the French Government have been given more information than South Australian people and the Australian Senate, that’s what Rex Patrick is saying.

BUTLER: Well again I don’t particularly want to respond to that tweet but I think we in Federal Labor have been saying for some time now that we need to understand exactly what the benefits of this project will be for Australia, in particular we have been saying for some time we need to better understand what the local content arrangements for this project will be to make sure we’re getting the maximum industry and jobs benefit from the biggest naval ship building program we’ve seen ever in Australia’s history.

JOURNALIST: Are you worried that perhaps the Government’s made a decision and is briefing partners and international companies before telling the South Australian public?

BUTLER: We have been worried for some time that it’s simply not been clear to the Australian people and Australian businesses that stand to benefit from this very substantial investment by Australian taxpayers. The Australian Government has not been clear about things like the local content arrangements for this programme.

Thanks everyone.