SKY NEWS: 10/08/18

August 10, 2018

FRIDAY, 10 JULY 2018

TOM CONNELL: We had that news in at the top of the hour of course that the states have now agreed to move this onto the next phase, it goes to the party room, what’s Federal Labor going to do of course in all of this, will they agree, for one thing, to the emissions target? Joining me, as you said, is Mark Butler in Adelaide. Mark Butler thanks for your time.

MARK BUTLER: Morning Tom.

CONNELL: The states moving this to the next stage, is that a good thing?

BUTLER: We’ve been saying for some time we want this to continue to move forward. We’ve been trying to find an investment framework, particularly a bipartisan energy investment framework, now for a number of years. Because, more than anything, the skyrocketing power bills that Australians continue to find in their letterboxes is a product of this Government’s inability to put in a long-term energy policy. We’ve said before, and I guess during, the preparations for this meeting, that we want progress in developing that investment framework.   

CONNELL: Have you made it clear to the states what you think should happen with this? For example the parameters around the National Energy Guarantee, any deal breakers any elements that would mean you couldn’t support it?

BUTLER: We think the work that the ministers and the Energy Security Board has been doing over recent months has been good work. We want to see some rules put in place but the heart of the problem in Malcolm Turnbull’s plan is it is all well and good to put in place an investment framework – but it needs to be a framework that actually supports investment. Malcolm Turnbull’s plan would see not a single large-scale renewable energy project built during an entire decade; it would see the rates of installation for rooftop solar on households cut by about a half. So we would have an investment framework that actually smashes investment. What we need are rules that would provide a platform for building new renewable energy because we know the surest way to bring down power bills is to expand renewable energy. That is our core complaint about Malcolm Turnbull’s plan. A plan that would smash jobs and investment, do nothing to cut pollution, and most worryingly would see household power bills continue to go up, and up, and up.  

CONNELL: This is basically an emissions reduction target that Labor wants a lot higher than the Government’s Paris target of 26 per cent. Will Labor vote against an emissions reduction target of 26 per cent if that is presented to Parliament?

BUTLER: Let’s be clear first about the 26 per cent, the Energy Security Board itself has said that by the beginning of this plan, in the early 2020s, by 2020/2021, we will already have achieved 24 per cent of that reduction because of Labor’s Renewable Energy Target. So really what this is, Malcolm Turnbull’s plan is a plan for a 2 per cent reduction in emissions over the course of the decade. And that is why you will see a smashing in investment and jobs in renewable energy, and further put upward pressure on power bills.

We still have a very substantial difference with Malcolm Turnbull on the level of ambition, because ambition goes to jobs, it goes to investment, and most importantly it goes to putting downward pressure on power bills. We will continue to have that fight with Malcolm Turnbull in coming months. 

CONNELL: Right, so to the question though of what you would do in Parliament on the 26 per cent, given what you’ve just said, would you vote against it?

BUTLER: We are going to take the fight to the Parliament and to the community that you need ambition. There is no point putting in place an investment framework with a plan that smashes investment. You’ll get some certainty, but certainty around the fact that there would be nothing built in the 2020s and power bills will continue to go up, and up, and up. So let’s not get ahead of ourselves, I still haven’t seen the communique. We want to see progress out of today’s meeting. There will be further discussions by the energy ministers next week as I understand it. But, if and when this matter comes before the Commonwealth Parliament, we will be making the argument very strongly that any investment framework that flows from this COAG process must have attached to it a target that actually pulls through investment, otherwise it does no good for anyone.   

CONNELL: Right but when you say taking that fight to the Parliament, making that point in Parliament, does that mean not supporting a 26 per cent?

BUTLER: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves Tom, we haven’t even seen draft legislation. What I’m saying is in the community and in the Parliament, whenever this matter comes up for argument, we will be making the case for real ambition. Because an ambitious target, something more than 2 per cent over the course of the entire decade, is the only way you will get jobs and investment in this industry, new supply coming into this sector, and downward pressure on power bills for Australian households and businesses. That’s supposed to be what we’re all about in this debate.

CONNELL: I understand you talk about needing to see more detail and some legislation but 26 vs 45 per cent emissions reduction is pretty clear cut. Could you support 26, take 45 to an election. Then if you win increase the target?

BUTLER: We are sticking to our policy of 45 per cent. We know from modelling released over the last couple weeks that our target would see wholesale prices about 25 per cent lower than they would be under Malcolm Turnbull’s plan. We think there is very good reason, on a jobs and investment plane, in terms of cutting pollution, and importantly for power bills, to see that extra level of ambition – and we will continue to have that debate in the Parliament. How that ends up in the vote, we’ll have to see how that goes.

CONNELL: We’re just about out of time, Malcolm Turnbull is about to start a news conference, but you are weighing up now to support that 26 per cent target, obviously you keep your policy of 45, but you are weighing up the 26 per cent in Parliament?

BUTLER: No what we are saying is in the Parliament we will be arguing very strongly for real ambition. We hope that some good rules come out of the COAG process, an investment framework that sees a foundation for investment to put that downward pressure on prices. But it is no good having an investment framework that smashes investment. We will be having that fight strongly in the community, through the media, on organisations like yours Tom, but also in the Parliament.

CONNELL: Shadow Energy and Climate Minister Mark Butler, thank you for your time.

BUTLER: Thanks Tom.