Doorstop, Parliament House, Canberra
25 March 2019
ANGUS TAYLOR: Good afternoon everybody. Before I take questions, I did want to make a comment about a report that has come out of Victoria today about price gouging by the big energy companies. We've seen a report saying that on the closure of Hazelwood, the big energy companies did gouge prices, they did hike their prices by as much as 50 per cent or more as a result of that closure of Hazelwood. This is vindication of something that I've been saying for a long time. It's also a vindication of the government's approach to bringing in the big stick legislation, giving powers to be able to deal with this kind of abuse of market power. Rod Sims has said today, the ACCC chairman, that the current legislation doesn't give us the powers necessary - the government or regulator more importantly - the powers necessary to deal with this kind of abuse in market power. It has cost Australian consumers as much as $3 billion according to this report. This is unacceptable behaviour and 12 times now, 12 times, Labor has refused to support this legislation. Now, Labor claim that they are acting in the interests of workers and consumers across Australia but at the same time they've refused to support legislation against price gouging which we have seen as a result of the closure of Hazelwood and they are establishing a 45 per cent emission reduction target which we said again and again will hike the prices of gas, of electricity, of petrol, of diesel, of meat because of methane emission from cattle. This is a Labor Party that is absolutely out of touch with what it takes to get on the side of the consumers, the hard working small businesses and households of Australia who want a better deal, a fair deal on energy. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: Does it show that it needs the policy settings in place to get big investment ahead of closures like the Liddell one that's affected?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We're getting no shortage of investment in the electricity market. We're expecting to $25 billion of investment in the coming years. The real challenge is it has to be dispatchable power and the real challenge is that the energy companies need to be accountable to their customers. And that's why we've brought forward legislation to the Parliament. Labor has rejected this. $3 billion worth of price for that according to this report coming out of Victoria as a result of what we saw on the closure of Hazelwood. Labor needs to decide whose side they're sitting on. And at the moment, they're sitting on the side of the big energy companies and that is absolutely unacceptable.
JOURNALIST: Your Nationals colleagues are under pressure from the Shooters and they want a coal-fired power station built. Can you get one built for them?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Our policy in this area is very clear. We want to see more dispatchable supply and competition in the marketplace. It is crucially important that this happened in Queensland. Crucially important it happens in Queensland. We need to see dispatchable supply and competition in the market in Queensland because what we've got up there is a Queensland Government that is gouging - it has taken $1.65 billion from the marketplace. Now, what we also want to see is a sensible emissions target. That's why we've set ours at 26 per cent. Labor on the other hand - 45 per cent - almost halving the emissions over the next decade or so and that will hike prices, it will hike the price of electricity, of gas, of diesel, of petrol and of course of cattle as well. And all of this is bad for consumers, bad for Australian households and businesses.
JOURNALIST: So is there a coal-fired power station option worth underwriting in Queensland?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, the ACCC made a recommendation - recommendation four, for its inquiry last year saying: recommending that we should pursue a process for bringing more supply and competition - dispatchable supply and competition, 24/7, a reliable supply into the market through technology neutral process, that's what we're doing. We've seen 66 submissions come forward, we're working through them meticulously. We've got to get this right and we'll announce it when we're ready.
JOURNALIST: When will we see the shortlist?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I said we'll announce it when we're ready.
JOURNALIST: Will that be before the election?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We'll announce it when we're ready.
JOURNALIST: Minister, if the New South Wales state election result is anything to go by, your own electorate would be in trouble. Are you worried?
ANGUS TAYLOR: All three state candidates, one in my electorate - and I am absolutely delighted to see that three wonderful candidates have won across Wollondilly, Goulburn, and Camden, and that's a great outcome. And more importantly, just as importantly, we saw a wonderful win on Saturday for Gladys Berejiklian and her team. It was an outstanding outcome and it was a vindication of government policy focused on creating jobs, half a million jobs in the time they've been government, over half a million jobs; investment in infrastructure, which was sorely needed in New South Wales and across Australia when we got into the government. It's a vindication of those policies and they're exactly the policies we're pursuing at the national level. We will- we do need to continue to emphasize the importance of those policies for the regions. In my electorate, we're seeing one of the lowest levels of unemployment- a regional electorate- one the lowest levels of unemployment in Australia in a regional electorate. One of the lowest levels of unemployment, just below 3 per cent. We've seen extraordinary investment in infrastructure across regional Australia. These are good policies, they were vindicated by the people of New South Wales. Gladys Berejiklian deserved to get into back in the government and she has done.
JOURNALIST: How important do you think Victoria will be in the federal election?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, every state's important. I mean obviously Victoria has lots of seats, but so does New South Wales, Queensland, WA. Look, we've got to do well in all states, and Victoria is an important state just like every other one.
JOURNALIST: Will you put the big stick legislation to a vote in Government?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well you know, we've put it to a vote 12 times. We have put this legislation to a vote 12 times and 12 times, 12 times, Labor has sat on the side of the big energy companies. I've spent a lot time thinking about why they have done this. They claim to be on the side of the worker, on the side of the household. And yet they have dudded the workers and they've dudded the households. And the truth is that in Queensland, Labor needs the big energy companies to make lots of profit in order to pay for their profligate spending, their excessive spending. And that to me is a part of the explanation as to why Labor doesn't sit on the side of hard working Australians on this issue. Twelve times we've put it to the parliament, 12 times Labor has rejected it. And yet we see this report today telling us that it cost Australian households $3 billion. That's price gouging on a massive scale, on a massive scale, because supply was withdrawn from the market, encouraged by the Andrews Government. And the result was we are all paying more for our energy now. We've brought forward legislation to fix that problem, Labor has opposed it. We call on them to support this legislation.
JOURNALIST: Will you be putting it to a vote next week?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We call on them to support the legislation. We've put it to a vote 12 times; 12 times.
JOURNALIST: So you won't...
ANGUS TAYLOR: They've been given a lot of opportunities, so you should be asking Labor. You should be asking Labor whether they're going to support this legislation. Should also be asking them about their 45 per cent emission reduction target because that will hike the price of electricity.
JOURNALIST: Well, why give up...
ANGUS TAYLOR: They haven't come clean on how they're going to achieve that target. They haven't come clean as to whether they're going to use Kyoto carry over. They haven't come clean about the details of what this will mean for sectors like agriculture- regional industries like agriculture, resources, transport, as well as construction and other crucial sectors to the economy. They've got to come clean because Australians deserve to know what their policies imply.
JOURNALIST: If you've tried 12 times, why give up now? Why not have another go next week?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well you should ask Labor whether they're going to support this legislation next week because they should, they should; $3 billion of price gouging; absolutely extraordinary. When Hazelwood left the market, encouraged by the Victorian Government, these companies hiked the prices and Labor is on their side.
JOURNALIST: Should One Nation be put last?
ANGUS TAYLOR: The Prime Minister has been very, very clear on this. We are not doing a national deal on preferences. We are not doing a national deal on preferences...
JOURNALIST: I don't think anyone's asking [inaudible]...
ANGUS TAYLOR: There's not been any ambiguity about our position on that issue. One more question.
JOURNALIST: Minor parties do gain ground in the areas that your electorate covers. Are you worried that that could be replicated at the federal election?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, you know, I show great respect for every voter in my electorate whether they voted for a minor party or a major party. Now, it's crucial that we do show respect to all voters. And I'm confident with the right policies - which we have - and the right campaign over the coming weeks that we can get the majority support of Australians in order to govern for another term. Thank you.