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Doorstop with Ken O'Dowd MP, Federal Member for Flynn, Gladstone, Qld

30 January 2019

Subject: Energy

E&OE

KEN O'DOWD: It is great to have the Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor here in Gladstone. Without coal-fired power stations, without gas in this area, our shipments of gas to overseas countries and of course our aluminium industry - all very vital to Gladstone's survival. I don't like the sounds that's coming out of Labor or Bill Shorten. He'd like to decimate the coal industry and put all our jobs, over 10,000 jobs in the Bowen Basin and also here in Gladstone at jeopardy, and that's why I've asked Angus to come Gladstone to talk to stakeholders on this very, very vital issue. Without further ado, I'll hand over to Angus.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Ken. It is absolutely fantastic to be here again in Gladstone with Ken, a hardworking member in this electorate, in this region - a region which has more of a need for low-cost energy, ample supply of low-cost energy, than almost any other region in Australia, with a whole series of energy-intensive industries, and thousands and thousands of jobs that rely on reliable, affordable power. That's why I'm here in Gladstone in Queensland today to call on the Queensland Government to reduce the prices of electricity to businesses, energy-intensive businesses, that need that energy to employ, to invest and to create jobs for great Australians in this region.

We have seen an electricity tax from the Queensland Government in recent years worth $1.65 billion. They're slugging businesses in this area, households in this area and across Queensland – the Queensland Government - with $1.65 billion of charges. That's $269 million more than the last year, and they just keep upping these charge. That is not good enough. We want to see a fairer deal for energy users in Gladstone and across Queensland.

We're also deeply concerned about what Bill Shorten aims to do in this region. He wants to slug Australian business with a 45 per cent emission reduction target. We know, from modelling that's been done by the Climate Change Authority, this will be a wrecking ball across the economy. Industries like aluminium, alumina, cement, irrigation will struggle to survive that kind of impost. Bill Shorten needs to come clean about his plans for this 45 per cent emissions reduction target.

Meanwhile, we're taking action. We announced last year that we were proceeding with underwriting new low-cost, reliable generation into the electricity network. We want to see more low-cost, reliable, 24/7 power. We've seen many submissions coming forward to the Federal Government in recent months and we look forward to saying more about those submissions and how we will drive the price of power down, how we will ensure that we do our bit to make sure there is enough supply in the market to make sure there's reliable, affordable power for all Australians and particular for this great region of Gladstone.

JOURNALIST: So when can we expect an energy policy?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We have a very clear energy policy and that's lower prices, lower prices and reliable power. Now, how are we doing that? Well, as I say, we are underwriting new generation into the electricity network. This is the first time a federal government has done this for a long, long time. We are doing it because we see that governments like the Queensland Labor Government aren't doing the right thing - they're not making sure that there's enough affordable, reliable power in the system. Now, the thing is the electricity company and the biggest energy company in Queensland is the Queensland Government, and they're slugging their households and businesses with over $1.6 billion of charges each year. They're taking $1.65 billion and they're using that to bolster their coffers, to make ends meet, because frankly, they've got a spending habit that they can't control.

Our policy is clear: more supply, more reliable supply, 24/7 supply, putting downward pressure on prices, holding the big energy companies to account. Just late last year, we brought legislation to the Parliament which will hold those big energy companies to account, including the Queensland Government to do the right thing by their consumers. Twelve times Labor has rejected this legislation. They need to decide whether they're going to get on-board with our energy policy, which is to ensure Gladstone and other regions around Queensland get the low-cost affordable, reliable power they need.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]?

ANGUS TAYLOR: You cannot achieve a 45 per cent emission reduction target without slugging a region like this hard. You can't do it. Just simply, the numbers don't work. Why is that? Because the emission intensity of these businesses are high. If they were to go to China, they would get higher. That's why keeping them here makes perfect sense. Now, for Bill Shorten to reach his target he's got to shut aluminium smelters, he's got to shut two-thirds or more of the coal-fired generators. Two-thirds or more. The Climate Change Authority has told us that. So he simply can't achieve his emission reductions without shutting industry, without putting good Australians, good Queenslanders, good people from Gladstone out of jobs. He simply can't do it and he needs to fess up and front up.

Hydrogen - whilst we strongly support getting a hydrogen strategy moving - frankly, it would be a band-aid on a gaping wound if the 45 per cent emission reduction target goes ahead.

JOURNALIST: What are you hoping to discuss with stakeholders this afternoon?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We want to see lower power prices, we want to see the Queensland Government to do the right thing by this region and reduce their tariffs, and we want to see more supply of electricity into regions like this. As I say, we're prepared to underwrite it. We're putting our money where our mouth is. We are prepared to underwrite 24/7 reliable power like we see in the four big coal-fired power stations here in Gladstone - gas-fired power stations as well. They are providing reliable, affordable power. The Queensland Government is taking a huge premium off of that and we want to see an end to that, but most of all we want to see more supply in the market and more competition in the market and lower prices.

JOURNALIST: Just to backtrack on the ERT, have you spoken to Rio Tinto or BSL about the impact on business?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I speak to all of the stakeholders regularly on this issue. And look, I think there is no one in the aluminium industry that's under any illusion - under any illusion - that a 45 per cent emission reduction target is anything other than a very dangerous impost on their industry. They've understood that for a long while. So whether it's Tomago down near Newcastle or it's Boyne Island here in Gladstone, the biggest threat to the aluminium industry in this region and across Australia is Bill Shorten's 45 per cent emission reduction target.

KEN O'DOWD: And the 50 per cent renewable energy target.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, and the 50 per cent renewable energy target that goes with it. They're joined at the hip, those two targets.

KEN O'DOWD: Shocking.