Interview with Deborah Knight, Afternoons, 2GB
DEBORAH KNIGHT: And as always, our pollies Ed Husic the Minister for Industry and Science, and Angus Taylor, the shadow Treasurer, are with us for Friday Question Time. Fellas, thanks again for joining us.
ED HUSIC, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE: Thanks, Deb.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Deb.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Now, Ed, you have set the cat amongst the pigeons with comments you made yesterday on the ABC. I want to play what you did say.
ED HUSIC: This is not a shortage of supply problem; this is a glut of greed problem that has to be basically short circuited and common sense prevail.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: A glut of greed problem. Well, the energy industry is hitting back. Some of your own colleagues are ducking for cover. Do you stand by what you’ve said, Ed?
ED HUSIC: Yeah, I believe so. I’ve received a lot of support from colleagues on what I’m doing but, more importantly, from the public who understand that the prices are unsustainably high and that we’ve got to find a way to be able to bring those down because you’ll have people say it’s a supply issue – it’s not. We’ve got the extra supply coming in from the heads of agreement that’s been signed. We’ve got 157 petajoules to deal with the 56 petajoules shortfall that had been predicted.
Supply is one thing, though; price is another. And some of the bad behaviour that the ACCC has highlighted like for example, exporters offering prices to local companies that are way higher than what they’d get on the international market and they’re only doing it deliberately to scare off local buyers so they can ship that off offshore at mega prices. I mean, this stuff has to be dealt with seriously if we’re going to see households and manufacturers in particular protected.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: We’ll talk about what you’re going to do about it in just a moment, but, Angus, you say repeatedly supply is the issue, and we’ve got to get more gas on to the market. But how do we do that without serious intervention? Because the Liberals have long opposed intervening in the market. We know that.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Deb, can I just say before I comment on that, I’m at Gunning where we had really serious flooding earlier in the week and two lives lost. And I just wanted to pay tribute to the amazing work of the first responders and the local community here on what they’ve done.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Well said.
ANGUS TAYLOR: So I did want to put that on the table because it’s really important.
ED HUSIC: Sorry to hear that, mate.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah thanks, Ed.
Look, can I just say on the gas piece, look, there’s no question Ed’s heart is in the right place. He’s fighting for customers, fighting for manufacturers, as he should – that’s his job. And good on him for doing that. The problem he’s got is that Labor is all over the shop on this at the moment. They’re talking about price caps, codes of conduct, windfall taxes, petroleum resource rent taxes, gas heads of agreement, subsidies for households, ACCC crackdowns. It’s absolutely all over the shop.
Now, the reality is we saw when we had gas prices getting up towards $20 a gigajoule that the best way to solve that problem is just get more gas into the domestic network. That’s the key. And we saw prices going right down to well below $10 a gigajoule as a result. So that’s the experience. That’s a lived experience of being in government, making hard decisions, dealing with what is a tough issue, there’s no doubt about that.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: So, if the Federal Government legislated something like Western Australia has had for years and forced the gas companies to keep more of the gas here in the domestic market, would you support them?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, you know, at this point you’d need a solution quickly, which is Ed’s point, and I agree with that. And –
DEBORAH KNIGHT: But if you say supply’s the issue and we need to guarantee supply on the domestic market, it seems like something that you would have to support, isn’t it?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, what you’d do – what we did is we just sat down with the gas producers and said, “Get more into the domestic network,” and it drives down the price. Now, we haven’t just seen this in Australia; we’ve seen exactly the same in the United States. It’s pretty simple, but you can’t do that whilst you’re demonising the gas producers and while you’re cutting gas projects.
In the budget we saw gas projects for pipelines, for storages, for exploration, for development all being cut. They’re supply projects, Deb, and they were being cut in the budget. So you can’t, you know, ask for a good deal for domestic manufacturers on the one hand – and that’s Ed’s job – and have other Ministers cutting back, like Chris Bowen, cutting back on projects that are absolutely critical for getting gas out from under the ground.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: And I see today that the Government is also set to review the approval of 18 new coal and gas projects. So that’s just come out today to add that into the mix.
But, Ed, you and your Government, you do keep saying that everything’s on the table to try to bring energy prices down. But why do you keep ruling things out? Because the Treasurer Jim Chalmers has ruled out windfall profit taxes and household subsidies. I mean, it’s all good and well to talk tough, but where’s the action?
ED HUSIC: Well, a number of things. In terms of what Angus said about the number of issues that have been put out there as options, that reflects the fact that people do want a range of things that can be done, and they are being considered. There are some things that we might as well be upfront on. And we’ve said, for example, the windfall profits tax is just – if you’re trying to solve the problem, that’s only one hit that doesn’t really flow through to dealing with the pricing issue.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Well, why say that everything’s on the table when it’s not?
ED HUSIC: Well, we’re saying that there’s a wide range of things, Deb, that are available that we are looking at. And we’re trying to work them – as I said in the last 24 hours, we’re trying to work through those issues and those options so that we can have that full package of things available. And there are some things you need to kick off quickly to look at – for example, the code of conduct and what can be done to ensure that the bargaining environment delivers for manufacturers in particular who have said to me they feel like it’s an uneven fight in terms of trying to get a contract landed with fair prices.
So we are trying to get that stuff moving, to get it happening, to meet what people want to see. And I believe we need to get a quick answer delivered as soon as possible. But I come back to this point: ACCC, they said based on their – they got all the facts together. They said based on current trajectory what’s happening at the moment we’ll next year face a shortfall of 56 petajoules. The heads of agreement that we signed delivered more than enough gas. The issue now is the pricing of it.
And if you’ve got some providers, as I said, offering gas at extraordinary prices deliberately so that people don’t use it locally and if they can then ship it off and export it at huge prices because of what’s happened as a result of the war in Ukraine, this stuff has to be dealt with. And that is why I’m taking such a hard line based on facts, based on what we’re seeing and based on what we know has to be done.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: All right. Well, people are certainly struggling now. They’re worried they won’t be able to pay the power bills that are going to get even higher. So action is certainly needed.
I want to talk about this issue as well – the Social Services Minister, Amanda Rishworth, has introduced these new guidelines for gambling ads, including the tag lines to replace Gamble Responsibly, with a lot more direct messages. Angus, your Nationals colleague David Littleproud says that it doesn’t go far enough as it stands. He’s calling on Federal Parliament to ban all ads for online gambling, particularly when sport is being played. Do you back David Littleproud, your Deputy Leader?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I’d say Australia’s love their sport, obviously, but we want what’s best for our children. And David’s right when he says kids are exposed to gambling ads from a very young age – as soon as they start watching sport. I know my kids and I started watching sport very early on, and so, you know, it’s reasonable to have concerns about this.
There’s currently a committee looking into online gambling, and I’ll wait and see the outcomes of that. The terms of reference, I think, are sensible. And I do think this is something we’ve got to look at very, very hard.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: And, Ed, after speaking with the Minister on the show about this, I had an overwhelming response from a lot of our listeners calling on the Government to do more to ban gambling ads completely and to do it from today. So why won’t the Government bite the bullet earlier? Why open it up to an inquiry when we know that the gambling ads are just bombarding us at every single turn?
ED HUSIC: I’d say in terms of the changes that you referenced earlier, that stuff is being worked through. Again, you’ve got to get different levels of Government working together as one on it so you’re not having one arm doing one thing and the other doing something else.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Well, yeah, because at the moment some states ban the TV ads, others don’t.
ED HUSIC: And so we have been trying to make sure that that stuff works together well. And we’ve definitely committed to making sure we’ve got practical solutions in place to deal with it. I personally, can’t stand those ads being seen from a personal perspective, but it’s not about us as personal parliamentarians just weighing in on this stuff in a way when we know that there are things like Angus referenced – the parliamentary work that’s being done – like the fact that we’ve got levels of Government working together on it.
And as you’ve heard from the Social Services Minister, we’re working through all that stuff, doing a great job to make sure we get everyone on the same page on it so we can move quickly.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: But are we moving quickly enough? That’s the question.
ED HUSIC: Well, when you look at it, Australians lose about 1,300 bucks a year on gambling.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Exactly.
ED HUSIC: It’s a shocking thing.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: It’s a big problem.
ED HUSIC: And we’ve got to be able to work effectively to deal with that.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: But you don’t think we should be moving quicker than we are?
ED HUSIC: It’s easy for me to jab other people. You chipped me earlier for jabbing people in the ribs on other stuff.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Well, come on, you’re happy to jab the energy producers – what about the gamblers? You may as well open up the flood gates.
ED HUSIC: Well, I have expressed my views just then. But I also respect that there are other people that are working on it outside of my space, and they are absolutely trying to get some effective action on it.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: All right. Now, I want to end on a fun note, as we do at the end of every Question Time. The former UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been booted from the Conservative Party after he signed up to the UK version of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. It’s actually filmed here in Australia. So I wonder – if you had the chance to appear on a reality TV show, which one would it be? Is there a reality show that you would be willing to put your political career on the line for? Angus?
ANGUS TAYLOR: No plans from me to go on to a reality show, you’ll be relieved to know.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: You don’t want to eat bugs or lose weight?
ANGUS TAYLOR: No-one should send me an invitation – I won’t be doing it. That being said, I’ve always enjoyed Survivor, but I did particularly enjoy SAS Australia. In fact, the first series of that was filmed where I grew up and partly on the farm where I grew up. And there’s some pretty crazy stuff in there and good fun. But, no, no point sending me an invitation; I won’t be doing it.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: We’ve seen you in the lycra on the pushbike. I reckon you could probably give them a run for their money.
ANGUS TAYLOR: That’s almost reality.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Almost. What about you, Ed?
ED HUSIC: I hate to say this – I’m already on a reality TV show known as Question Time.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yes, yes.
ED HUSIC: But Melissa Wu from our local area and diver, Olympic diver, was on SAS that Angus mentioned. And I saw particularly through her socials what she had to go through for the SAS show. It was huge. But, you know, if I was to go on one, I’m Western Sydney. It’s not on anymore, but I’m Western Sydney – how can I not go on to Jersey Shore?
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah.
ED HUSIC: The Western Sydney equivalent in the US.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: That would be a hoot. But, you’re right, Question Time is the ultimate reality TV show. A bit too real for most of us sometimes, too.
Fellas, thanks for joining us.
ED HUSIC: Thank you.