Sydney Doorstop Interview 06/08/2019

August 06, 2019


SUBJECTS: Gas policy; power prices

MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Today’s announcement about a gas policy is essentially an announcement to have a policy, not this year, not even next year, but at best the year after next. It’s just not good enough after suffering through the worst energy crisis Australia has seen since the mid-1970s. During that time since 2015 gas prices have tripled and wholesale power prices across the National Electricity Market have skyrocketed by 158% smashing household budget and jeopardising tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs. But still after 15 attempts, this Government has been unable to agree upon its own energy policy to resolve this energy crisis. That’s why Angus Taylor, instead of embracing the National Energy Guarantee which has the support of every state government and every business organisation in the country has embarked instead on this ideological flight of fancy on nuclear power. Australia needs real action to bring down energy prices now, not two more years of just more talk.
JOURNALIST: What would that real action look like?
BUTLER: First of all, we still think that the Government should return to the National Energy Guarantee. Even the New South Wales government just last week has called on the Government to come back to the table on the National Energy Guarantee. That, according to Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg, would bring down power prices, but because of the veto of the hard right of the Coalition party room that has been taken off the table and instead we have this frolic of nuclear power which would see power prices about three times what they currently are two decades down the track.
JOURNALIST: How would the National Energy Guarantee bring prices down?
BUTLER: You just have to ask Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg who last year until they were blue in the face presented modelling that they had commissioned that showed household energy bills would be cut by, on average, $550 if we had a national investment framework in place. That’s why it had the support of every state government Labor and Liberal alike, and every business organisation in the country. Instead of that we now have a vacuum of policy – 15 different energy policies proposed by this Government in just three or four years – and a frolic on nuclear power.
JOURNALIST: Does Labor support a domestic gas reserve?
BUTLER: We’ve said since 2015 that there should be action taken by the federal government to ensure that there are secure and affordable supplies of gas including a reservation of domestic gas if that’s necessary. Now, we were derided at the time by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as being economic vandals. We had to drag him kicking and screaming to any idea that you would reign in the Australian gas industry. Today there’s a big announcement about Australian gas reservation, but if you read the fine print there’s no action until 2021 at the earliest. We need real action now not two more years of talk.
JOURNALIST: Do states and territories need to do more to increase gas production?
BUTLER: Federal Labor supports the responsible development of our onshore gas resources and any federal government, whether it’s Labor or Liberal, if they take the view that state governments, again Labor or Liberal, aren’t doing what is necessary for that responsible development, should come to the table and offer something constructive. I’m not sure what the Morrison Government is offering, whether it’s the Berejiklian Government in New South Wales or the Andrews Government in Victoria, what it is they are offering to try and get that responsible development happening.
JOURNALIST: Do you think this is a move by the Morrison Government to pay back the Centre Alliance for its support on the income tax package?
BUTLER: Clearly this is part of a deal with the Centre Alliance to get the tax cuts through. Centre Alliance has said that the Government has committed to getting the gas price down to $7. I’ve seen headlines today of power price reductions that would see gas prices having to be reduced to $5, which is about half their wholesale price now. Federal Labor would welcome that, I’m sure the business sector would welcome that too, but it’s time for the Government to provide some detail. If they’re proposing power price cuts of $270 by getting gas prices down to $5, tell us how you’ll do it and when you’ll do it.
Thanks everyone.