Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News Australia

Peter Stefanovic
Savings on energy bills, electrifying homes, support of the Greens, bargaining framework

PETER STEFANOVIC: We're going to send it over to Canberra now. Joining us live is the Industry Minister, Ed Husic, and good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. So, when will folk see savings on their bills?

ED HUSIC, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE: Well, we're very focussed on making sure we can sidestep the predicted increases in electricity and gas prices. We've shaped an energy policy as an Australian Government that's designed in the national economic interest to protect families and households, protect businesses, and importantly, protect jobs. That's what everything is about here in Canberra today. The bulk of the Parliament gets this. They want to protect people from that bill shock, they want to protect jobs, and the only people that seem like they can't understand this and don't want to support it is the Liberal and National parties. 

PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. So, when will folks see savings on their bills? 

ED HUSIC: So that will be through the course of the coming 12 months. We had predictions, as you would be aware, just on the eve of the budget about where electricity and gas prices were headed. We did need to intervene. We've been working over the last few months to deliver a package that will basically represent the nation's economic interests, and that's what we're putting forward to the Parliament today. 

PETER STEFANOVIC: So, is this really a short-term fix, if we're not going to see savings for 12 months? 

ED HUSIC: I emphasise, over the course of the next 12 months people will be able to sidestep the worst of those increases predicted for the average family at about $230 on electricity bills. So, we need to be able to sidestep that. We need to be able to provide certainty. And so that's why the caps that we are proposing have been put in place, and in the meantime, for the longer term, coming to your question, we want to reform the bargaining framework about the way, for example, gas prices are negotiated. 

The ACCC has said that the way that the market is working at the moment, there are big elements of it that are dysfunctional. We have to step in and reform the way that the big producers and the users are able to negotiate contracts, and so we can get much more reasonable pricing longer term. So, there's a plan for now, and it's a plan for longer term. 

PETER STEFANOVIC: So, is it actually a promise that prices or bills will come down? 

ED HUSIC: What we are doing is taking note of the predictions of where electricity and gas prices were going to go as predicted by Treasury. We have now put in place measures, or put in before the Parliament measures, and working with the states and territories as well to ensure that we sidestep those bill increases that were anticipated. 


ED HUSIC: And so we're putting in place a proposition that is fair, that is right and in the national economic interest. 

PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. You've shifted the goalposts on these companies though, and some, as you know, have declared war. What's to stop companies from just keeping the gas in the ground? 

ED HUSIC: We have been talking about this issue for six months. So, this notion that you just put to me about shifting the goalposts, everyone in the nation got where the goalposts were. We needed lower prices. We couldn't afford to have gas companies making these extraordinary profits and then claiming that they could do nothing about it. They proposed nothing, opposed everything. We have been saying for ages, they need to recognise that the prices were unsustainable. We asked them to do something about it. They wouldn't. We have a responsibility as a government to step in, and that is what we've done. 

PETER STEFANOVIC: Right. Yeah. But the notion of the question is based on local and international companies that invested billions of dollars to develop Australian gas resources that were based on a set of rules that have now changed. So, will this lead to reduced investment as some have forecast? 

ED HUSIC: I think the suggestions out of the companies, and some of the things that they've been saying in the last few days, really, they need to take a leaf out of the old story of the boy crying wolf, because they made investments when gas prices were way lower, and they were making profits when gas prices were way lower. We have seen an extraordinary jump in gas prices that are putting pressure on other parts of the economy. So that is why you've seen in the last few days manufacturers welcome what we are doing because it will help protect the 900,000 or so jobs that exist in that sector where they are reliant on accessing energy   accessing an Australian resource at Australian prices, and that is important, and worth bearing in mind as well. 

PETER STEFANOVIC: Just a final one here, Minister. There's been a negotiation, of course, with the Greens to get their support. So, has there been a deal to electrify homes? 

ED HUSIC: What we want to be able to do is find ways, and particularly given that households are making the call to put on solar panels, electrify themselves as well, we've got to find ways to speed that up as part of the national process of reducing emissions and improving people's access to low-cost energy, and so we're working as to how we'll shape that up, because there are a lot of parts in it. You just can't click your fingers and make that happen. 


ED HUSIC: But I would make the point: the Parliament, the bulk of the Parliament other than the Liberal and National Parties, get that we need to lower prices, protect jobs and ensure access for an Australian resource at an Australian price, and it seems bizarre that you've got a Coalition responsible for nearly 10 years of energy mess, that they would vote against a chance to keep prices low. 

PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. Industry Minister, Ed Husic. As always, appreciate your time, thank you. We'll talk to you soon.