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Doorstop, Parliament House, Canberra

2 February 2019

Subject: Energy


ANGUS TAYLOR: Last week, we saw 200,000 Victorian households lose their power. We saw major businesses like Portland being shut down. This is completely unacceptable. Daniel Andrews and the previous South Australian Labor government have trashed their electricity networks. They have targeted variable power that's not there when you need it and the result has been blackouts, and the result is also upward pressure on prices. Well, we're stepping in. We announced last year that we would be underwriting new 24/7 reliable generation projects to get more supply in to the market, more competition in the market, put downward pressure on the prices, and keep the lights on. We ran a request for information process over the Christmas break. We have received 66 submissions under that process - 66 submissions for a whole range of different technologies, all of which are focused on making sure we get the prices down, keep the lights on, and add to the competition in our electricity market. This is a very, very important program. We're looking forward to the support of the states. We will be working through those proposals as quickly as possible but the focus for everyone must be ensuring that we don't see a repeat of what we saw last week in Victoria. We came very close as well in New South Wales this week. It is crucial that state governments get in behind this program to make sure we've got enough supply to keep prices down and keep the lights on.

JOURNALIST: What can you tell us about the mix of submissions?

ANGUS TAYLOR: There's a whole range but what we want to see in the electricity grid in Australia is balance, and that means when state governments target variable power, power that's not necessarily there when you need it, that needs to be balanced with reliable, dispatchable power. Power that's there when you flick on the switch. I mean, factories need that power. We want to see that balance and we've seen a whole range of different types of projects in these submissions from gas to coal to waste-to-energy to batteries. It's the balance we want to see in the grid. It's the balance we've seen in the submissions and we'll be looking to make sure that that balance is there to address the problems we have seen in recent weeks.

JOURNALIST: How likely is it that coal will be included in the final mix?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, our focus is on the outcomes. Our focus is on getting prices down and on making sure we keep the lights on - and we'll be picking the projects that do that. Now, we know we can do that whilst reaching our emission reduction obligations. We'll be picking the projects that can get us to our outcomes and we'll be assessing them on that basis because at the end of the day what the Australian people want is not a fight over which technology is best - what they want is lower prices. They want availability, they want reliability, and they want to know that their Government is focused on what they need.

JOURNALIST: You are the designated minister for bringing down power prices - is there anything you can point to that shows they have come down?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Absolutely. On 1 January, we saw standing offers reduced in National Electricity Market states by up to 15 per cent, up to 15 per cent reduction. That means customers who have been paying a loyalty tax because they don't have time or if they aren't able to get on the phone and spend hours negotiating a better price, have seen reductions in their power prices. Now, it's also true that they can go for - that they can pick up the phone and drive those prices down further and we're seeing more competition than ever to attract those customers, and we want customers to be holding big energy companies to account and we've seen these reductions but we want to see more. This is the beginning. This is the beginning. Getting more supply into the market and retaining the supply we already have in the market is urgent and that's why this program, 66 submissions, is so crucial for making sure that we deliver to Australian households and businesses. Those hardworking businesses that deserve lower electricity prices, this supply will be crucial to delivering what they need.

JOURNALIST: The Queensland Government has warned that your legislation could lead to the privatisation of state-owned assets. Is that true?

ANGUS TAYLOR: This is wrong. The Queensland Government is trying to distract people from the fact that they, as the biggest energy company in Queensland, can drop their prices tomorrow. $1.65 billion was ripped from Queensland electricity users in the last four months by the Queensland Government because they can't make ends meet. That's almost $300 million more than the previous year. The Queensland Government, as a typical Labor government, can't manage money and the way it's dealing with that is to up its electricity prices. It can drop those prices tomorrow and it should.

JOURNALIST: On another matter, the Government has spent more than $215 million on advertising in the past year. Is that an appropriate use of taxpayer funds in the lead up to an election?

ANGUS TAYLOR: The Australian taxpayers deserve transparency, they deserve to see where this money is being spent but it's also crucial that they see how government programs are impacting them, what it means for them. We want to make sure that people fully understand the programs that we're rolling out; that it's a fair use of taxpayers' money. We use it responsibly. We're very careful with making sure that this money is used for taxpayers to make sure that they're getting value for money.

JOURNALIST: Some of those contracts will go up until June, which means they will run through the caretaker period. So, it's allowed but is that appropriate?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, as you say, it's allowed. What is crucial here is the government programs that affect people - affect people’s lives - they can use to get the outcomes they want are well understood. It's a responsibility of government to make sure they are well understood.

JOURNALIST: And just on one final matter - Australian planes might have killed civilians in Iraq. Do you have any sort of reaction to that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Any loss of civilian life from an airstrike is tragic. There's no question. I'm not able to confirm, this is ultimately a question for Defence. We do know that Australian Defence Forces were involved in an airstrike and there may have been loss of life but I'll let any further detail come from Defence.

JOURNALIST: Thanks very much.