Doorstop, Goulburn, NSW
1 January 2019
ANGUS TAYLOR: Happy New Year. It's great to be entering the New Year with a strong economy, and that means we're in a strong position with a budget surplus on the way to fund those essential services that Australian's need in health, in education, in disability and so on, but we know many Australians are struggling with cost of living. The good news is, from today, we are going to see over half a million Australians better off from lower electricity bills - that's Australians on standing offers who have been paying too much for being loyal to their service providers, to their energy companies - will see savings of 10 to 15 per cent on the bills being paid by those customers. For a typical household, that will be a saving of $200 to $300 or more, and significantly more for small businesses. We know many small businesses are on standing offers. These will be automatically passed through. In particular, we'll see benefits to concession card holders and concession customers. That's aged and disability pensioners, amongst others. They will see significant discounts. This has come from pressure on the big energy companies from the Government as a result of the very high loyalty tax that these customers have been paying. We've said: “It's not good enough, it needs to be fixed”. So those savings will flow through as of today. This is part of a broader suite of initiatives to bring down prices, eliminating dodgy late payment penalties. We've seen Australians paying as much as $600 a year in late penalties because they pay their bills a couple of days too late. As well as initiatives to bring new supply, new competition into the market to force down prices over the medium term.
JOURNALIST: How will people get this discount? Will they get it from the provider-
ANGUS TAYLOR: It comes straight through in their bills. If you are a standing offer customer you will receive the discount now. It's also true that if you're on a standing offer you may be able to get a better deal by ringing your energy company, but, there will be automatic discounts for customers on standing offers.
JOURNALIST: Labor says their 50 per cent renewable target and emissions reductions target will also reduce power bills. If they can do both, why can't you?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we are going to reach our 26 per cent emission reduction target. We're going to achieve it six to seven years ahead of time. On top of that, we can put downward pressure on prices because we're going so well verses that target. We are focused on underwriting new investment into the market. We are focused on making sure the big energy companies keep supply in the market through the Reliability Obligation, and our legislation which will penalise companies that withdraw supply and reduce competition in the marketplace. We are going to reach our emissions reduction target easily, but the focus now because we are so far ahead of time has to be on getting prices down, on getting a better deal for all Australians, both households and businesses on their electricity bills.
JOURNALIST: You say you are going to do that by putting pressure on energy companies - ow is strong-arming energy companies sitting with the liberal philosophy of free markets?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We want to do the right thing by Australian energy consumers - households, hardworking small businesses - we want them to get a better deal. The truth is that in the last couple of years the price hikes by the energy companies have gone to the energy company's bottom lines without any increase in service or improvement in the product they're providing. We want a fair deal for Australian customers. We want competition. we want enough supply to meet the needs of all households and businesses. and we are absolutely focused on doing it. Now, the ACCC gave us a series of recommendations for how to achieve that and we are pursuing those recommendations with vigour.
JOURNALIST: Is it just an admission that the market's failed you?
ANGUS TAYLOR: No, it's recognition that in the last couple of years we've seen withdrawn supply - supply taken out of the market that hasn't given Australian customers the deal they deserved, and we are acting to address it, and we will. We are already seeing those benefits starting to flow through. The AEMC is telling us we will see across-the-board reductions in prices in the coming years, just as we're seeing, right now, a reduction in standing offer customer prices from 1 January.
JOURNALIST: On the GST on tampons - how will the effect of taking it off female hygiene products work?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well it is automatic, and you'll see a 10 per cent reduction for feminine hygiene products in the shops - benefits there for 6 million Australian women. So this is good news from 1 January, from today.
JOURNALIST: ASIC wants to impose credit card limits so that debts won’t exceed what people can pay off in over three years? Do you agree with this? Do you think it is needed?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'll leave that to the relevant minister, but this is an issue that, obviously like many issues, we deal with in the New Year. Our focus today is on electricity prices, and what we're seeing from 1 January is a reduction in standing offer prices being provided to those customers, many of whom are doing it hardest - standing offer customers, concession customers, disability and aged pensioners who need a better deal. The truth is, we have seen standing offers increase by as much as $200 to $300 just in the last couple of years for customers who are loyal to their service providers. We're acting to deal with that.
JOURNALIST: So will you look at the ASIC-
ANGUS TAYLOR: As I say I'll leave that to the relative Minister.
JOURNALIST: Okay, there has been loans going out to residential homes-
ANGUS TAYLOR: Sorry?
JOURNALIST: Oh, the restrictions on interest-only loans are being lifted today. Is that a good idea?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I'll leave the financial issues in the financial sector to the relevant minister. My focus today here is on a better deal for Australian electricity consumers; a better deal for all Australians on cost of living. Not only are we seeing, as I say, a reduction in standing offers; we're introducing new supply and competition into the market and that will put downward pressure on prices.
JOURNALIST: But don't you think it could risk- riskier loans again for home owners?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I'll leave that issue to the relevant minister. Today, my focus is on reducing electricity prices and that's, I know, a real priority not just for Australian households but Australian businesses that have struggled with rising energy costs in places like this, where we know we have abattoirs, we have manufacturers, all of whom need to get a better deal.
JOURNALIST: Okay, well on energy loans again - how many people will benefit from them? Mark Butler said it's only going to be 5 per cent.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Mark Butler is wrong. We'll see immediate reductions in standing offer prices for over half a million households and small businesses, but on top of that we are seeing across-the-board reductions in the coming years. The AEMC has recently put out its forecast - we are seeing reductions across the board. We'll continue to drive that and increase those reductions through increases in supply, through increases in competition. We're underwriting new investment into the market, but we are also making sure that energy companies keep supply in the market. that supply that's necessary to keep prices down.
JOURNALIST: The Opposition says your savings are hugely inflated. Is this savings just that people have been ripped off?
ANGUS TAYLOR: The savings are real. The savings are real. The Opposition doesn't want lower electricity prices. Mark Butler has made clear in the past that he supports the Labor Environment Action Network that believes in higher energy prices, higher electricity prices. They want a 45 per cent emission reduction target. That is a target that will raise electricity prices. We're focused on bringing them down. We'll reach our targets and we'll bring electricity prices down through increased supply, through increased competition, through increased pressure on the big energy companies to do the right thing by their customers.
JOURNALIST: Well you've said before that the increase in prices just went to the bottom line of these companies-
ANGUS TAYLOR: That's right.
JOURNALIST: Were they just being ripped off?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, we saw supply being taken out of the market, we saw a reduction in competition in the market, and the ACCC has made clear that that has led to price hikes and increased profitability. Now, at the end of the day, we're not against profits but what we've seen here is an increase in prices with no improvement in service, with no improvement in reliability and security, and we want to see a better deal for Australian consumers.
JOURNALIST: Okay, and you've been tasked with reducing power prices; what other measures are you putting in place?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we are putting direct measures in place to bring down power prices by eliminating the loyalty tax, by eliminating those penalties for late payments, but on top of that, we are very focused on more supply and competition in the market because we know with more supply, with more competition - as we've had in the past - you get lower prices. That's why we're underwriting new investment into the marketplace. That's why we're bringing new powers into the Parliament to ensure that supply is retained in the market when it's needed. That's why we've established a Retailer Reliability Obligation, which forces the retailers to make sure there's enough supply in the market years ahead of time.
JOURNALIST: Time is running out on the Liddell power station - where are you at with that negotiation?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, it is very simple. We need to have enough supply in the market. Either that means Liddell continues on or it is replaced and at the end of the day, it is having enough on demand, dispatchable, 24/7 supply in the marketplace - that's what brings prices down, that's what brings relief to hard working Australian families and businesses, and that's why we are so focused on making sure we retain supply and attract new supply into the market to drive down prices.
JOURNALIST: You're going to go to the election without a climate change policy. How do you expect-
ANGUS TAYLOR: We have a very clear policy. We have a 26 per cent emission reduction target.We'll achieve it in the National Electricity Market well ahead of time. The latest numbers tell us we'll achieve that before 2024 so that iss as much as seven years ahead of time and that gives us breathing space. It gives us the ability to focus on getting prices down, on ensuring that we have the reliable, secure grid on hot days, that there is enough power to meet our needs, that there is enough low cost energy available in this country to keep those energy intensive jobs - whether it's in abattoirs, in manufacturing, aluminium smelters, steel mills - as well as all those small businesses like cafes and so on that are big users of electricity.
JOURNALIST: Okay. Peter Dutton’s attack on Malcolm Turnbull - do you agree with him?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, I'm not going to weigh into this. Our focus today is on the New Year and this is a new year where we have a stronger economy, we have a strong budget position from which we can fund those services that Australians want in health and education. Today we're seeing major new drugs being listed on the PBS for multiple sclerosis, for kidney disease. This is what a Government that has its budget under control, that has a strong economy, can do. If you don't have a strong economy, you can't provide those essential services for health, for education, for disability. That's our focus in the New Year.
JOURNALIST: Do you support Peter Dutton-
ANGUS TAYLOR: As I say, I'm not going to weigh into this. This is a new year and the New Year has to be focused on every Australian's best interest, and every Australian's best interest is a strong economy that provides opportunities in regions like this one. The New Year is a time to focus on a strong =budget surplus, because that's where we're going to, from which we can fund those all essential services. Today we're also seeing, from the January 1 in an area like this, regional Australia, an extension of ABSTUDY, a broadening of the criteria for young Australians to get off to university. What a fantastic initiative made possible by a Government that's running a strong economy - over a million jobs having been created in our time in government, of course, and the result of all of that is that we can provide these services that a government that can't make ends meet, like we saw with the last Labor government, just isn't able to afford.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree with Peter Dutton that Julia Banks should come clean and let us know the exact details of the bullying that took place, or allegedly took place during the leadership spill?
ANGUS TAYLOR: It's a new year - I'm not going to be focused on the Canberra bubble. My focus is on every Australians best interest. And as I say that's jobs, that's opportunity, that's services, that's cost of living, that's getting electricity prices down, that's making sure every Australian gets the deal they deserve.
JOURNALIST: I know it's the New Year, but are you just trying to deny that the last year happened?
ANGUS TAYLOR: No, I'm trying to focus on what Australians care about. I'm trying to focus on the issues that Australians care most about. That's jobs, that's opportunities. Today we're seeing the TPP coming into force. That means farmers in this region will have access to new markets. Now, we've seen, despite the drought, agriculture in better health in this country than it has been for many, many years. We've got to get through this drought, but we have new markets to get us through. Those new markets are having a real impact - cattle producers, wool producers, grain producers across Australia. This is good news and that's our focus for the New Year.