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Transcript of Joint Doorstop

18 May 2015

Subject: Renewable Energy Target

E&OE

With the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP

Treasury Place Melbourne VIC

IAN MACFARLANE: Well good morning. Greg and I have this morning met with Mark Butler and with Gary Gray and the Labor Party has again agreed to support a proposal to resolve the impasse on the RET. The Target will remain as announced last Friday week at 33,000 gigawatt hours. As part of the exemption of Energy Intensive Trade-Exposed industries and the inclusion of wood-waste which we reminded the Labor Party was raised at the first discussion and as our note-takers show was also raised with them in January.

Wood-waste will be in the proposal that goes into the House in the legislative amendments hopefully next week, or the week after. There will be a report regularly issued by the Clean Energy Regulator to the Parliament and to the Government of the day, outlining the progress of the scheme, the cost of the scheme in terms of electricity prices to households and also, if the event arises, the likelihood of the scheme defaulting. We have, right from the start, set out to protect electricity consumers, particularly households, from any extra costs as it relates to the Renewable Energy Target.

Consumers have expressed a desire to support the Target, but at the same time, a Target where the price of the REC doubles if the scheme defaults and then impacts households virtually to the same level as a carbon price, will not be welcomed. And also of course, places the scheme itself into jeopardy. In the discussions that we’ve had with the Labor Party as a result of the proposal I took to the Prime Minister last Thursday night, the Labor Party has agreed to adopt a bipartisanship approach to any discussions that result from reports issued by the Clean Energy Regulator and of course, the Coalition, whether we’re in Government or in Opposition, again commit to that.

That was the process which I embarked on when I was with Penny Wong in Opposition and quite frankly, it’s a part of the process that’s been lacking in this round of negotiations. So we’re pleased to have brought this to a conclusion. We’re looking forward to the renewable energy industry getting out there and meeting a target which means they have to build more renewable energy generation in the next five years than they’ve built in the last fifteen.

GREG HUNT: Alright. What we’ve achieved today I think is certainty for the renewable energy sector, the protection of jobs in the trade-exposed sector and I think that that is absolutely critical – protection of jobs in the trade-exposed sector, which means blue-collar jobs, manufacturing jobs, jobs which rely on the creation of materials and the use of electricity which are exposed to competition from other countries and an effective Renewable Energy Target of 23.5%. So there is a very significant task. There is an enormous opportunity for the renewable sector going forward.

We think we have found a better way which suits the needs of all parties and in particular the transparency requirements so as we can see progress towards the Target through an annual statement by the Clean Energy Regulator, see any implications for electricity prices through that annual statement by the Clean Energy Regulator and Australians can be kept up to date on the progress towards the Target, but we should now be able to get on with the job, complete the legislation through the House and the Senate and see renewable energy constructed but with appropriate protections for consumers.

IAN MACFARLANE: Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Why didn’t you bring this compromise around the reviews to the table weeks ago? Why has it taken nine days (inaudible)?

IAN MACFARLANE: Well the Labor Party agreed to the review process when we put it to them ten days ago, they then changed their mind. I can tell you that there are people within the Labor Party who share the Coalition’s concerns if this scheme goes to default. The reporting system is really all that we wanted.

What we wanted were credible facts and figures provided to the Government of the day that indicate where the scheme is. I met with the Clean Energy Regulator last Thursday and during that meeting we discussed the way in which this would work and as a result of that meeting I took this proposal to the Prime Minister with Greg on Thursday night.

JOURNALIST: So you’re saying ten days ago, or whenever it was, Friday week ago, Labor agreed in the meeting in this building over here that two year reviews would be retained.

IAN MACFARLANE: Absolutely. And that was the view as Mark Butler walked out the door, a view that was extensively reinforced by Gary Gray in the conversation that ensued while Mark was out talking to the press.

GREG HUNT: Alright, thank you very much.

IAN MACFARLANE: Thanks very much guys.

JOURNALIST: Can we just ask you about the iron ore inquiry?

IAN MACFARLANE: Sure. I was just exiting stage right.

JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts? Should there be an inquiry?

IAN MACFARLANE: Well look, my understanding is that this is a discussion which the Cabinet will have. As the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have said in recent times, no absolute final decision has been made. My views will be expressed to my Cabinet colleagues and we’ll wait and see the outcome of that.

JOURNALIST: Is there a concern though that perhaps the way that this would look from our trading partners and is this a job for the ACCC?

IAN MACFARLANE: Well look, I’m sure all of those views will be discussed in Cabinet and as a result of that Cabinet discussion a proposal will be put to the Party Room.

Thanks very much.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, on wood-waste – do you have crossbench support to get that through?

GREG HUNT: Look, I am confident that the Parliament will support exactly the proposal which was put by the Labor Party to the Parliament previously and included in legislation. I think it’s important to understand – biomass was in the original legislation, it continues to be in the legislation. The only change is that the ALP’s reference to wood-waste which would otherwise lie on the floor of the forest, rot, release methane, or be burnt, will now be used constructively.

That was the case in the ALP’s original legislation. It did have bipartisan support then. I am confident, without presuming, that the Senate will support it and in addition to that, it’s something which happens in many countries in Europe, so it’s a common practice and at the end of the day, I am extremely confident that we will work this through the Senate and the legislation will be passed.

Ok, thank you.

IAN MACFARLANE: Thank you.

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