Doorstop, Parliament House
ANGUS TAYLOR: We have seen in the last 24 hours, Labor siding with the big energy companies. Labor is singing from the same songbook as the big energy companies. They are defending the price gouging, they are defending dodgy practices and they are defending record profits. Well we stand arm-in-arm with the hardworking Australian businesses and families who want to see lower power prices. They want to see the end of loyalty taxes of confusion. They want to see a fair deal when they don't have time to spend hours on the phone to call centres to get their power prices down. We're determined and we will take whatever steps are necessary to make sure prices come down. Labor on the other hand are clearly siding with the big energy companies. We won't stand for it.
JOURNALIST: Minister Taylor, you also said yesterday in the press conference about having a shortlist of projects that you may underwrite, ready to go next year. Given the Government's been suggesting the election will be in May, is there a potential for contracts to be signed before the election?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well the focus here Phil, is to make sure that we have a shortlist of projects by early next year. That's the immediate goal. The crucial point here is that we need to have enough supply in the market to get prices down and to keep the lights on. This has been a challenge in recent years, and we will play a role in making sure that happens.
JOURNALIST: But is it a possibility you may get to the contract stage with any of these?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well the goal here is to have a shortlist of projects by early next year. We'll take it from there. The critical thing here is that we need that supply of fair dinkum reliable generation - that dispatchable generation - that means that when you flick the light switch on it goes on, and when you want a fair deal from your energy company you get it.
JOURNALIST: In order to sign any contracts, do you need new powers in federal legislation or could you sign contracts with any of those shortlisted companies under existing powers?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Look our goal is to have that shortlist in place by early next year. The banking of those projects, of course, we want to do what we need to to make sure good projects are in place. We'll do what's necessary at the time.
JOURNALIST: And do you have enough support on the crossbench to actually get the powers that you would need in order to go through that shortlist and sign contracts?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well I think all of these issues - the price gouging we've seen, the dodgy practice we've seen in the marketplace and the need to have enough affordable reliable power in place to keep prices down is going to be a test for the Parliament and particularly, for the Labor Party. This will be a real test - whose side do they sit on? Who do they sit with? Do they sit with the energy companies or do they sit with the hard working Australian small businesses, farmers, households, pensioners who want to see lower electricity prices?
JOURNALIST: Do you think that they're- do you want to see on the shortlist a Healey coal-fired power plant put forward for Queensland because Queenslanders, some Queenslanders want one?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I'll tell you what I want to see on the shortlist: I want to see reliable supply that's going to keep prices down and make the market more competitive and make sure there's a better deal for all Australian households and businesses. That's what I want to see.
JOURNALIST: Talking about a big stick approach - you're applying it to energy companies. We've seen dodgy practices from banks. We've seen cartels with the oil companies. Why aren't you applying that to other industries?
ANGUS TAYLOR: The Prime Minister's given me one very key goal and that's to get electricity prices down while we keep the lights on - that's what I'm focussed on.
JOURNALIST: Barnaby Joyce and some of your colleagues suggest that these powers should be extended like anti-trust provisions in the US, across all the business sector - do you think there's merit in having that discussion separately?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I'll tell you what there's merit in Phil, in getting electricity prices down, that's where there's merit.
JOURNALIST: I'm not disputing that.
ANGUS TAYLOR: My goal is really simple - you saw it when I was sworn in.
JOURNALIST: But you're an educated man.
ANGUS TAYLOR: You saw it when I was sworn in.
ANGUS TAYLOR: I have a clear goal. This Government has always been its best when we've had clear goals. When we've stopped the boats, when we've done three free trade agreements. Clarity delivers results. I am focussed on that. I won't be distracted. That’s my goal.
JOURNALIST: So you don't want to inflate with other-
ANGUS TAYLOR: My goal is to get electricity prices down.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, can I get clarity on that point because I thought that the divestment power that would be put forward was a divestment power across all sectors for the ACCC, but is that not the case?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Our focus is on the electricity sector.
JOURNALIST: Is it only a divestment power for energy-
ANGUS TAYLOR: Our focus is on the electricity sector here.
JOURNALIST: When you put that marker on yourself that your sole goal is to get electricity prices down, what date are you setting in your mind to start seeing electricity prices fall?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We're aiming to have the loyalty tax eliminated by 1 July next year, with a down payment on 1 January.
JOURNALIST: But dollar-wise, the companies might drop their prices by just a smidge - they're meeting your objectives if you're not putting a specific goal on them.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Two families, same street, same energy usage, $800 difference, simply because one didn't get time, didn't get around to picking up the phone and negotiating a better price with their energy companies. That's unfair. We won't stand for it. We side with Australian businesses and families. We don't side with the energy companies. Mark Butler put out a press release yesterday, showing that he clearly sides with energy companies. He was defending their pricing. He was defending their pricing practices. I'll tell you what, we won't be defending those pricing practices, we'll be defending the interests of Australian families and businesses.