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Interview with Sky News The Bolt Report

30 November 2016

Interviewer: 
Andrew Bolt

Subject: future of coal fired power; renewable energy; backpacker tax

E&OE

ANDREW BOLT:

Well, joining me is Resources Minister Matt Canavan. Matt, thank you so much for your time.

MINISTER CANAVAN:

Thanks Andrew, great to be here.

ANDREW BOLT:

Now, if anyone was confused about one of the graphics we just played, we’ll get to that later. That was one from your colleagues, the whip. It will be explained later in the show, mate. But listen, this week the Senate Environment Committee called on the Government to develop a mechanism for the orderly closure of our coal-fired power stations, which supply, as you well know, nearly three-quarters of our electricity. What are the chances of that really happening Matt, and what are the costs?

MINISTER CANAVAN:

Well I think it’s important to point out, Andrew, that the Labor Party unfortunately have gone further than that. They said in this report that the Labor Senators have supported that it’s not a matter of if, but when we shut down and move away from coal-fired power in this country. The Labor Shadow Energy Minister, Mark Butler, has come on board yesterday and supported that report. And what’s happened here, as you said in your opening remarks, they’ve looked at South Australia – we’ve seen what happened there when they shut down their last coal-fired power station earlier this year – and the Labor Party are saying give me more of that. Now, I don’t think that’s a recipe for the future prosperity of this nation. We will continue to rely on coal for decades to come, and perhaps for a very long time, because we don’t know what innovations and what new methods of producing coal will come along. And certainly, in other countries like Japan they’re meeting their Paris targets by building ultra-super-critical coal-fired power stations with our coal – with our coal. You’d think we should be looking at that too.

ANDREW BOLT:

But the thing is though Matt, your Government’s got its own renewable energy target – I think it’s 23 per cent by 2020 – and you’ll soon have to decide whether that should go higher. It almost certainly will go higher. Now, why, when your target’s already costing every household on average $55 a year, yet it makes such a tiny difference to emissions that it actually does nothing to cut the temperature. Now, why are you giving Australians this pain for no gain?

MINISTER CANAVAN:

Well, I think it’s very important to recognise, Andrew, that in the last Parliament we reduced that renewable energy target down from a level that would’ve been close to 30 per cent, down to 23.5. We actually originally proposed to go back to around 20, which was the original intent, but that’s what we could get through the Parliament, the 23.5. So we have lowered that, and lowered the cost of that. We did, of course, get rid of the carbon tax, which was pushing up the price of household bills and achieving no environmental benefits. Next year we will have a look and have a review about how we can meet our future targets, our Paris climate change targets. But we have of course already, and we will exceed our current targets, our Kyoto targets, through doing things like investing in better forms of farming, in investing in better ways of doing things. Those things are already bringing our carbon emissions down, without putting costs on households, and in particular not putting at risk the manufacturing jobs and the cheap energy that they rely on.

ANDREW BOLT:

Yeah, but that figure of $55 a year comes from Josh Frydenberg, who is your Energy Minister. I was just wondering, it actually makes no practical difference to the climate, and I just wonder why you guys don’t call it out. I don’t know why you don’t do it.

MINISTER CANAVAN:

Well look, I mean it is important to look at new ways of producing energy. The target is something that’s been in place now for a number of years. I certainly think that we cannot walk away from commitments for people who have made investments in a certain type of energy based on government policy. It would be completely irresponsible to just simply change policies like that overnight, because that erodes investor confidence. We have seen an increase in renewable energy in our society, and to be very clear, the Government, and certainly I, am not against different types of electricity here. There will be a role for solar, there’ll be a role for renewables; the important thing here is to get a balance. The important thing here is to not go down that South Australia road, where we end up with so much renewable energy in the network that is intermittent and insecure that it puts at risk our energy security and the thousands of jobs that rely on that. That’s the important thing. So it’s not about being pro-coal or anti-wind, or any of these things. It’s about being pro-cheap energy, pro-energy security, pro-economic development, and pro-innovation in these technologies as well.

ANDREW BOLT:

Oh well, we’ll live on in hope that Cabinet’s closet climate sceptics will reveal themselves and change all this. But, Matt, the Government’s desperate in the meantime to get its signature bill, or it’s been desperate to get that Australian Building and Construction Commission through Parliament and it succeeded. But to get the votes of the Nick Xenophon senators, it promised more assurances that the extra water that could be used for irrigation by farmers along the Murray, will be used instead to flush the river. I mean, that’s a wasted asset. I’m just wondering why the Nationals haven’t been more upset about that.

MINISTER CANAVAN:

I don’t accept that characterisation, Andrew. It’s not what has been agreed to or what the Prime Minister has said to Senator Xenophon. What we have said is we will elevate this issue to COAG at the leaders’ meetings at least twice a year and discuss the implementation of the Basin Plan. That’s perfectly appropriate, it is a very important plan for the future of our country. The important thing is that in the agreement, to deliver the additional water that you’re talking about, it will only happen if we can prove that there’ll be no economic or social detriment due to those additional water flows. So, that’s the protection we’ve got in the agreement, that remains…

ANDREW BOLT:

So, Nick Xenophon got nothing?

MINISTER CANAVAN:

Well, what we have done, of course, is elevate this to a leaders’ discussion. I don’t know if you…

ANDREW BOLT:

Yeah, no but that’s just talk. That’s just talk. Practically, he didn’t get any water for South Australia.

MINISTER CANAVAN:

Well, obviously leaders sometimes can sit down and work things out and in a way that doesn’t happen at a ministerial level. I’m not sure if you saw the news, but the last ministerial meeting of water ministers devolved into abuse and invective from the South Australian Labor Water Minister who…

ANDREW BOLT:

I did see that. That language…

MINISTER CANAVAN:

…called his Labor, Victorian Labor colleague various names that I can’t repeat on your family program. So maybe this is a path forward to get some better results. That’s not the way it needs to be managed and hopefully the South Australian Government and Mr Weatherill will take a different approach the next time this is discussed at COAG.

ANDREW BOLT:

Oh well, so it sounds like Nick Xenophon just got some words and that was enough, that’s good. The backpacker tax, it’s stuck between the Senate voting- and Labor, Greens, et cetera, voting for a 15 – no, you guys are saying 15 per cent in the Lower House …

MINISTER CANAVAN:

Yeah, we’re going 15.

ANDREW BOLT:

…and in the Upper House, Labor, the Greens, et cetera, saying 10.5 per cent. There’s a real conflict here. How should this be sorted?

MINISTER CANAVAN:

Well, look the Government’s been open to compromise, Andrew. We proposed a 19 per cent rate a couple of months ago. Through discussions with senators, we came in at 15 per cent. You’ve got a situation here where Senator Derryn Hinch last week voted for a 19 per cent tax for working holiday makers and then today, today voted for a 10.5 per cent tax over a 15 per cent tax. I don’t know how that maths squares. I don’t know what arithmetic Senator Hinch is using but the accountability here has to come …

ANDREW BOLT:

Well, everyone’s jumping around.

MINISTER CANAVAN:

… on the Labor Party, on the Greens, on Senators that are elected to the Parliament to make consistent decisions on behalf of the Australian people but are clearly playing politics with this and are not acting in the interests of particularly our farmers who just want an answer, just want security. And the NFF are happy with a 15 per cent rate, just get on with it and do it.

ANDREW BOLT:

Matt, I’ve got to go but I can’t help but ask, why do we pay the dole in fruit picking areas, in fruit picking times; why do we pay the dole when Australians could do the jobs and instead we’re offering huge tax cuts to get foreigners to do it?

MINISTER CANAVAN:

Look, Andrew, I couldn’t agree more with you about that sentiment. In the last Parliament, we did try and prevent young people who could work, are able to work, from accessing the dole for six months. It wasn’t supported by the Senate. We’re trying to make some other changes now which would encourage or incentivise young people who can work, to work. It is extremely frustrating that you’ve got an area in my state like around Hervey Bay, the Wide Bay area some of the highest youth unemployment rates in my state and also a very strong horticultural industry which doesn’t have enough local workers. It’s not good enough, the welfare system should change. Not just for our taxpayer dollars to be used in an efficient way but also for the dignity of these young people’s lives. It is absolutely absurd …

ANDREW BOLT:

Absolutely.

MINISTER CANAVAN:

… that we pay young people to sit home and do nothing. You wouldn’t do it to your own kids. I wouldn’t pay my own sons money to sit on a couch when they could go get a job picking fruit, but we do it to other people’s children; it’s a form of abuse.

ANDREW BOLT:

Matt, I couldn’t agree with you more and I speak as someone who’s picked and cut a lot of fruit when I was younger. Thank you so much for your time Matt Canavan.

MINISTER CANAVAN:

Thanks Andrew, cheers mate.