Doorstop - Garvan Institute of Medical Research - Sydney, NSW

doorstop interview
Modern Manufacturing Initiative, Covid booster shot, flood funding package, crude oil price, aluminium supply

ANGUS TAYLOR: It's great to be here at the Garvan Institute with a really important announcement - a $61 million contribution to a $185 million project through Omico focused on outsmarting cancer. Matching mutations, genetic mutations and molecules, the drugs that can help to solve really-hard-to-solve cancer problems. A brilliant initiative that will not just improve health outcomes in Australia but will also make sure that we're creating jobs, great jobs, all the way through from the research and development and clinical trials through to manufacturing opportunities. That's what the Modern Manufacturing Strategy is about. This is part of a $1.5 billion strategy of which over $800 million is now committed, focused on strengthening Australian manufacturing and taking it into an era where we're combining technology and manufacturing together. Jobs from right across the value chain from the research end all the way through to the operators in a manufacturing line. That combination is what will make Australia great in manufacturing in the coming years and decades. We've made announcements in recent day’s right across a range of different industries, and the Prime Minister has, critical minerals. We're focused on those areas where Australia has great strengths. Medical technology is one of those, and that's why we're here today.

JOURNALIST: Minister, can I just ask one on Covid. What's the reason Australia's booster shot rate is lagging so far behind our first and second doses?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Our first and second doses are right at the top of the charts worldwide, as you know. We've done extremely well in getting people the jab. We'll continue to push hard to make sure people get their boosters as well. And can this be a message to all Australians: get your booster. We need to make sure people do guess those booster shots. It is important now – we're really opening up – to make sure we're protected against any future variants or strains, and getting your booster is a good step forward to doing that.

JOURNALIST: Minister, on the flood situation, has the Prime Minister's trip to Western Australia delayed a new flood relief package for New South Wales?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No. We received a proposal from New South Wales yesterday. We're considering it. But, I tell you what, we're getting out there amongst it now in addressing people who have been affected by the floods. I've been in my electorate talking to people, whether it's community organisations, show societies, organisations that have been badly affected by the floods, individuals, businesses, and making sure they have the category A, B, C and D support which we are giving across all the LGAs that have been affected. That's been our focus. We'll consider packages that continue to provide the level of support that's appropriate as they come in. And we received one yesterday and we'll consider that and, no doubt, respond to it as quickly as we can.

JOURNALIST: So why has the latest funding package been delayed?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I don't know anything about a delay to a funding package. We received a proposal from New South Wales yesterday and we consider proposals as quickly as we can. But I tell you what – the support is getting out there. And this is crucial. I've said it in my own electorate. I was on the ground the morning the floods peaked in Camden. I was there. I watched them peak. I watched them have the impact that they've had and I've been out there making sure whether it is councils, community organisations and others get the support they need. And I know my colleagues, the local members as well as the relevant ministers, have been out there amongst it and making sure the support is getting to where it needs to. This is a combination of government, and community groups who play that role in providing the support that's needed. That's how Australia does it. It's how Australia's always done it. It's how Australia always should do it.

JOURNALIST: On petrol, Minister, it's dropped below USD$100 a barrel for Brent crude, yet at the bowser we're still seeing it at well over $2 a litre. What's going on there?

ANGUS TAYLOR: And we expect that to pass through. I mean, it does take, there's a delay typically of a week or two before that passes through, but we do expect lower international oil prices to flow through to the bowser. The ACCC I know watches that very closely. I've spoken to Rod Simms about it many times in the past. It is crucial that those lower international prices flow through. It's also crucial we get more supply on the market. That's why we have a played a leadership role in driving a collective action internationally to make sure oil is released on to the market to stabilise those prices, to put downward pressure on them. We've committed to releasing 1.7 million barrels of oil alongside the 60 million from other countries. The United States will be releasing at least 30 million barrels. This is about making sure we have the oil where we need it, when we need it, putting downward pressure on prices. We're part of that process, and we've led that process.

JOURNALIST: Is it frustrating, though, because, you know, we see the world oil price drop and you go to fill up your car, you're still paying $2.20 a litre. Someone's taking the Mickey, right?

ANGUS TAYLOR: There's a delay in the cheaper oil getting into the bowser. That's how it works. It's always worked that way. It's not new. But it is important – let me say it is very important that it flows through. This must flow through. That is crucial. It's the ACCC's job to watch that closely. I've certainly asked them to do exactly that, and I know they are.

JOURNALIST: But if it does flow through and it is cheaper, that means the squabble over excise is irrelevant, right?

ANGUS TAYLOR: It must flow through. I mean, we expect competition to drive domestic prices to a lower level when international prices fall. We are adamant at making sure that our regulator is a strong cop on the beat in seeing that happen. Look, I'm not going to make any comments or speculate on the Budget. That's something that I'll leave for the Budget.

JOURNALIST: So, the Government will soon force refineries to hold stocks as part of the fuel security plan. Won't that increase prices?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No. We don't expect it to. Having more stocks available when there are shortages, when there are disruptions, will put downward pressure on prices and increase security at those crucial times. That's what having extra stocks is about. We are in a position where, alongside countries across the world, we can release over 60 million barrels because there's extra storage. You do that so that you have the oil you need when you need it. That's the whole point. Australians can rightly expect that we do that. That's why we've set a mandatory stockholding obligation. That's why we've committed over $200 million in building storages to store that and make sure those storages are getting some support from the government to avoid upward pressure on prices and make sure that that storage is there. And shoring up our remaining two refineries in this country, in Lytton in Brisbane and down at Geelong. These are all part of a broad suite of initiatives that we saw during the pandemic we needed to make sure are in place alongside ensuring there's broader access to supply over the longer term. And that means developments like the Beetaloo Basin are absolutely crucial to make sure that supply is coming on to the market.

JOURNALIST: When are you planning to release the final fuel security report?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We've released a whole range of policies over the last 12 months, including the mandatory stockholding obligation you referred to a moment ago. Including shoring up our remaining two refineries. Ensuring that they are reducing their sulphur levels as part of that broader program. Making sure that we have the fuel we need when we need it at an appropriate price, which means, as was pointed out a moment ago, the global prices when they fall flow through to the consumers. Those initiatives are broad-ranging. We've announced them over the last 12 to 18 months. They're important and they're there for all to see.

JOURNALIST: Another question on the floods, Minister. Are people missing out on much-needed support because of a squabble between the New South Wales and federal governments?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No. The category A, B, C and D, the full range of support under our regime, which has been in place for many, many years, is available now. And I know local members and ministers are out there on the ground making sure that support is getting to the right place. Additional proposals are coming from individual states. We'll consider them as quickly as we possibly can. We can only consider them as they arrive. We'll look at those on they are merits, as we always do. But, you know, the support is getting out there. I've seen it. I've been part of it. I've toured all the damage that was done in the Camden-Nepean region just a few days ago, making sure I as a local member fully understand the situation and that that funding support is there as is required, and that's exactly what is being done.

JOURNALIST: Are you comfortable with 20 per cent of the aluminium that is manufactured out of Gladstone, Queensland Alumina, is going to Russia. Aluminium obviously helps build missiles. Are you comfortable with that? You haven't sanctioned the bloke who is or was the chairman of RUSAL?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Ultimately, we've got to make sure that we get the balance right here and in doing our part internationally in ensuring that Russia does pay the price for what it's doing right now. We've seen that price being paid. I mean, the change in international transactions and what's done with SWIFT where basically Russians don't get access to that, has had an enormous impact in Russia. We've seen a collapse in the Ruble, we've seen a real impact on the Russian economy. These are real sanctions having real impact- 

JOURNALIST: Gladstone though-

ANGUS TAYLOR: We are part of that. And we'll continue to work with our international allies and partners to make sure will there is appropriate retribution–

JOURNALIST: It's got nothing to do with that. It's in Flynn. It's a marginal seat. 1,500 people are employed there. Is that the reason that you're baulking at sanctioning the company?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We are part of an international action that's having very significant impacts. And it is the right thing to do, and we're doing it. We will continue to do it. What matters here at the end of the day is whether Russia is paying the price for what it is doing, and it certainly is, and we'll continue to make sure it does.