Interview with Chris Kenny, The Kenny Report, Sky News
CHRIS KENNY: Thanks for joining us again, Minister. I want to come energy issues in a moment, but can we start with climate goals? No doubt, you welcomed what Joel Fitzgibbon had to say from Labor yesterday, saying that he thinks Labor should just match the Paris emissions reductions goals to 2030. You would think that makes sense to have a bipartisan commitment in this country to get to 28 per cent reductions by 2030, right?
ANGUS TAYLOR: It seems that Labor is starting to see the error of its ways and Joel Fitzgibbon has voiced that and he hasn't been the only one of course, Chris, others have as well. You know, it's not surprising. They took a policy to the election, a 45 per cent emission reduction target, almost halving emissions by 2030 and we know that that would've trashed jobs, would've trashed incomes and would've trashed the economy. We saw that from independent modelling and Labor itself was unwilling to detail the cost and the impacts of those policies.
CHRIS KENNY: Sure. Yeah. We've had that argument - that was the last election. But you reckon it's a good idea to have a bipartisan commitment to get to 28 per cent to 2030? Two questions for you and the Government to get there. Firstly, how are we to have faith in the fact that the Coalition will get to that target given that emissions have been rising the last couple of years and you don't have anything in place like a carbon price or a national energy guarantee to drive those reductions?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We've got a strong target, and we've got a clear plan down to the last tonne as to how we're going to achieve it, Chris. I mean, the $3.5 billion fully funded Climate Solutions Package is the pathway to achieving that. We've achieved our Kyoto targets both the first phase and we're well on track to overachieve significantly Kyoto 2020 using a similar tool kit. So we're very confident we can achieve it. Look, these are sensible targets that are balanced and, you know, you dismiss this point about trashing the economy but this is the point. This is the point.
CHRIS KENNY: No. I don't dismiss it. I'm just saying we had the argument before the election.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, but the argument doesn't end here - that's my point. I mean there are people out there now who want to go after ridiculous targets that are going to trash jobs, trash incomes and trash the economy. We're just not going to stand for it. Now, if Labor wants to move to a sensible target where that's not necessary, where we can do sensible things that aren't going to have these terrible, negative impacts on industries and regions and the economy more broadly - that is a very good thing. It seems to me they are seeing the error of their ways.' But look, there is still chaos within Labor. You hear one thing one day and something else the next day so it's a moving target as far as I can tell, Chris.
CHRIS KENNY: Now, are you prepared to lift your eyes though beyond the 2030? Because certainly that's what a lot of climate scientists and a lot of policymakers are doing. They're saying what needs to be done globally beyond that. Are those 2030 Paris goals as far as the Coalition is looking or do you perceive that beyond that, you would continue to drive emissions down?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well our accountability, our core accountability and our core focus is for 2030. I mean, that's a long time frame. We've laid out a plan 11 or 12 years ahead of time which has never happened before right down to the last tonne. So it's a long timeframe in its own right and that's our very clear focus.' Look, we do need to be doing things as we prepare for what happens beyond 2030, and that's particularly emerging technologies. I think there's some real potential in emerging technologies like hydrogen. We've, of course, referred this nuclear inquiry to a Parliamentary committee. Biofuels, and there's a range of other technologies. We're investing significant amounts now, Chris, in preparation for what happens in the longer term and that's very, very important work. Carbon sequestration as well. I mean that is really how you have an impact today on what happens over the longer term. It's via investments in emerging technologies and then I think these are very important investments and they'll continue to be a focus for the government. We'll have more to say about those in the future as well.
CHRIS KENNY: Just want to get onto energy and power prices. I see that one of the regulators has demanded that South Australia reduce its electricity prices. What's driving that recommendation?
ANGUS TAYLOR: South Australia has had amongst the highest electricity prices in the world and that's why we've brought forward the default market offer which is a price cap on standing offers. We want to see wholesale prices continue to come down; we're actually starting to see some good progress on that now. That means more supply into the market. We've got a new gas generator from AGL coming into the market. We've seen extension of life for an existing generator in South Australia. So this is all good progress. There's a lot more work to do. Ultimately what counts is it is reflected in everyone's power bill. Some are seeing some real benefits now in South Australia, up to over $600 for those ones in that position. But we want to see it across the board, Chris, and that needs to be a continuing focus.
CHRIS KENNY: What's happening in Victoria? I noticed the Victorian Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio she says that you're part of the problem, that you've got an ideological approach to energy reform. What's your response to her?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, my approach is to focus on getting prices down and keeping the lights on. It's pragmatic, and it's what really matters to your average Australian business, household, and the industry that employs so many people. But you know, Lily is talking about our interventions in the market to get prices down. Let's have a look at Victoria's interventions in the marketplace - they have supported the premature closure of coal-fired power stations, they've banned onshore gas exploration and development, whether it's conventional or unconventional, either way they've banned it, and of course they've set a reckless emission reduction target or renewable energy target, the same one as Labor took to the last election which will continue to put upward pressure on prices and undermine reliability. I mean, we can't take accountability for those sorts of insane interventions. That's what the Victorian Government's pursuing. It's completely at odds with what's in the interests of the people of Victoria. We're going to reach our emission reduction targets, which are strong targets, through a fully funded plan. We don't need Victoria going down this pathway.
CHRIS KENNY: But does Victoria have, let's put price to the side for now, because we all want lower prices and we'll see what can be delivered over the next year or two, but does Victoria have enough generation? Do they have enough electricity supply to get through the coming summer?
ANGUS TAYLOR: There's a real risk. They don't have enough supply to be sure that they can get through the summer. That's the point. So there are real risks in Victoria and when we saw the closure of Hazelwood and we're seeing real pressures on other coal-fired generators in Victoria because of just an absolute flood of intermittent renewables without balancing dispatchable power ' power which is there when you flick the switch, you know it's going to be there on demand - without that balance in the system, you've got very serious risks in Victoria this summer. I tell you, Chris, Victoria only has itself to blame for putting itself in this position, because the cocktail of policies they have put together is truly diabolical and they need to deal with this fast. Get rid of the moratorium on gas.
CHRIS KENNY: After South Australia had their state-wide blackout and was caught disastrously short, reliant on Victoria, the state government there spent $500 million doing, among other things, buying a whole raft of diesel generators to backup their supplies. They've been needed a couple of times, now I understand they have now sold that to renewable energy company. I mean, they're still there ready to back up when South Australia runs light on for energy, which is handy. It looks a bit ugly and a bit slipshod, but at least it's there. Does Victoria need something like that? Does Victoria have any investment going into dispensable power at the moment, or is it all only going into intermittent renewables?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, their only plan is for thousands and thousands of megawatts of new intermittent renewables. That's their plan, Chris, and this is very dangerous.
CHRIS KENNY: But as the National Energy Minister, you can't sit back and look at- and let that happen, right? Because you know the state could be disastrously caught short. They have to have gas or diesel backup, or else they're reliant on what? They're hoping that New South Wales has got spare capacity.
ANGUS TAYLOR: We have a federal system. In the Constitution we don't have powers over energy, there is only so much we can do. We can work with collaborative states. We're working with South Australia to address their problems and we're making progress. Yes, it's true that we need longer term solutions beyond just the short term solutions in South Australia. But we've got a good government there, we're collaborating with very strongly. We're working with the New South Wales Government to deal with some of its challenges. We're working with the Tasmanian Government on opportunities there. We'll work with collaborative state governments, but what we've got in Victoria is a government that is determined to undermine its grid, to undermine reliability, put upward pressure on prices. There comes a point where we simply can't accept any accountability for the outcomes in a market, and that's where we sit in Victoria right now, sadly, Chris. We saw 200,000 consumers lose their power last summer in Victoria. So it's not as though we're not seeing the more than early signs, the real warning about what's happening in the Victorian grid. I think it is going to be real pressures this summer.
CHRIS KENNY: Angus Taylor thanks for joining us.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Thank you.