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Interview with Andrew Clennell, Newsday, Sky News

21 January 2020

Andrew Clennell

Subject: Energy


ANDREW CLENNELL: Mr Taylor, thanks for joining us.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me, Andrew.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Okay, so, first I just want to bring up a document. It's from your Department, you released it in December, and it's called Australia's emissions projections for 2019. It says that, there's a table here that says our abatement task to meet the government's 2030 emissions reduction target will be to reduce emissions by 395 million tonnes over ten years. It also says our overachievement - which could be used as carryover credits - is 411 million tonnes.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yep, correct.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Does this mean then that we can stay at the same emissions at the current level, and meet and beat our target?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, no - i's not what it means - it means, effectively, that with the overachievement we have less carbon in the atmosphere, as a result of the hard work of Australian businesses and households, we're in a position to meet and beat - and you'll see, in fact, there we're ahead of the target already in 2019 for 2030 - we will meet and beat based on our current projections.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Yes, but you'll meet and beat based on the carryover credits. Is that-

ANGUS TAYLOR: [Interrupts] Well, that's one factor. There's more to it than that, of course.

ANDREW CLENNELL: [Talks over] That's a pretty big factor though Minister.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, let's be clear about this. Emissions now are almost 50 million tonnes lower in our time in government than they were under the previous Labor government. So we have seen a very, very strong performance over recent-

ANDREW CLENNELL: [Interrupts] Is some of the recent carryover carbon tax?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We've seen a very strong performance over recent years. Now, the truth of the matter is the result of Australians overachieving on our 2012 targets and our 2020 targets - we've got a year to go, but projections there are that we'll be well ahead; 411 million tonnes ahead - that means there's less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a result of the hard work of Australian families and businesses, households and businesses, and we believe that we should be given credit for that. Now, we're ahead of the game and our targets are a floor, not a cap. They're not a cap on our ambition, and we'll continue to work hard - this is not set and forget - we'll continue to work hard to meet and beat those targets by 2030. 11 years ahead of time, Andrew.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Alright. But Mr Taylor, why do we need carryover credits? Why do we need to go on the international stage and argue for carryover credits? Shouldn't we just be trying to get that 26 per cent target anyhow?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we'll only use them if we need to, and we've been very clear about that.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Well, do you believe we'll need to use them?

ANGUS TAYLOR: The simple point about this, Andrew, though, is this - if you repay your mortgage early, you don't expect the bank to pocket the money. Australians have worked hard. We've seen a lot of businesses, and I've seen it in my own career pre-politics as well as after entering politics, we've seen a lot of Australians businesses and households do all sorts of things to reduce their emissions, to drive energy efficiency - and I'm sure you've got lots of listeners out there who have done things in their own homes and in their small businesses and larger businesses to reduce those emissions. Now, the result of that is we are one of not a large number of countries in the world that has overachieved not by a little bit, but by a lot. This is almost a year's worth of emissions reductions we're beating our targets by for 2020. We believe we should be given credit for that, but we also believe it's the responsibility of the government to keep working hard, to do as well as we can, to beat those targets by as much as we possibly can.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Alright - is there any chance that on the international stage as these COP meetings go on that the carryover credits provision will be struck out and we won't be able to use them?

ANGUS TAYLOR: The Paris Agreement is what's called, it's set by what's called Nationally Determined Contributions. So countries set their targets and they set them at a sensible level for them to ensure that they get the right trade off. For us that means a target which we can achieve without trashing the economy. And this is of course was a major issue at the last election. We saw Labor with a 45 per cent emission reduction target, which we believed would trash the economy, would shed jobs. We had independent modelling telling us that. We weren't going to go down that path. This is a sensible target. We know we can achieve it. We'll strive to beat it, and of course-

ANDREW CLENNELL: Will you strive to beat it without using any of those credits?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We'll use the credits if we have to, but we will strive to beat it. And of course, central to that is technology. We're seeing already now - I mean, much of the work that's been done in the businesses I described and the households I've described – is deployment of new technology. We are seeing in Australia world leading investment in renewable solar, in particular the costs have come down dramatically in recent years. We're seeing new technologies emerging on the storage side, whether it's lithium batteries or hydrogen where we're making very significant investments. We know technology has the potential to allow us to reduce emissions without hurting the economy, without shedding jobs. That will be our focus. And our targets will always be set at a level where we know we can achieve the outcomes without that economic damage.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Okay. Have you had any discussions with the Prime Minister about a potential raising of the emissions reduction target in 2030, or in terms of not using carryover credits?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I have many discussions with the Prime Minister obviously, but our goal is always to meet and beat.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Would he prefer it met without using the credits or he doesn't care?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We would all prefer to get the highest possible emission reduction we can without hurting the economy. This is why we will not adopt the policy where we set a target - as Labor has done with their 45 per cent emission reduction target - set a target which we know will destroy jobs, will destroy incomes, will destroy regions and industries. We're simply not going to go for it.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Okay. So, if you went to zero net emissions by 2050, how much do you think that would cost the economy?

ANGUS TAYLOR: There's a long time between now and 2050 so I'm not going to speculate on that. What I am going to say is that we're simply not going to adopt targets where we think there's a real risk of damaging the economic prospects of Australians and Australia.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Okay. Well, this 2030 target, how much does that cost the economy?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We've laid it out very clearly in the Climate Solutions Package, this is a $3.5 billion package. $2 billion of that is the Climate Solutions Fund. We've had enormous success with the Emission Reduction Fund. As we move to the Climate Solutions Fund, it will broaden, it will cover new areas that the Emission Reduction Fund hasn't because that's the nature of pushing these things to the next stage. But the important point here is that we've laid it all out in the budget, we laid it all out before the election to the last dollar, exactly how we're going to achieve those outcomes. We think it's completely irresponsible of what we saw with Labor, they didn't lay it out, they couldn't explain the costs and impacts of their policies. Now they're saying their policies were a mistake. But they're not telling us what their new policies are. We set our targets, we beat them and we will strive to beat them by as much as we possibly can without impacting the economy.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Do you believe that climate change has been a factor in terms of the bushfire season?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I believe climate change is happening, it is having an impact and it's having an impact on events like bushfires and floods and other things around the country. Attributing an individual event is always harder. But the important point here is we need to do our bit. We also need to do everything we can to adapt and mitigate on the ground. As an electorate which was affected by the fires, I think that mitigation is enormously important. We need to adapt and make sure we're in a position where we can ensure that we minimise any prospect of damage to property and life.

ANDREW CLENNELL: I want to ask you, I understand your brother actually lost a house in the fires. What sort of effect have the fires had on your community?

ANGUS TAYLOR: It's not about me but it is about my community and it has had a real impact. We've lost many houses in my electorate and tragically two lives were lost as well. But I've got to say that on the ground the communities have united and they're recovering at a phenomenal pace. The resilience of these Australian regional communities, the villages that have been so damaged by these fires is extraordinary. I'm very proud to represent those areas. There's a lot of work to do, there's a lot more work to do and there's a lot of work to make sure that we minimise the risk of this ever happening again.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Let's go to the Australian Federal Police evaluation into your office and this travel document with the wrong figures, Clover Moore, I'm sure you regret the whole affair. How can you be confident as you said in Parliament that a member of your staff actually printed a document off that City of Sydney website, as opposed to botching it up?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I've made a statement on this and I stand by that statement. What I will also say is I read in the papers today that there is ongoing review being done by the AFP and whilst that's happening I've really got nothing more to add, Andrew.

ANDREW CLENNELL: But you are personally confident, because you haven't sacked anyone, that there's been no wrongdoing-

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well I stand by the statement that I made last year. As I say whilst there's an ongoing review, I've got nothing more to add.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Are you confident you'll be cleared? Well your office, sorry, your office will be-

ANGUS TAYLOR: I'm very confident of my position. I laid it out in that statement and I've really got nothing more to add over and above what I've said in that.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Now some might unkindly say that this Bridget McKenzie scandal is going to take some of the heat off you in the first week of Parliament. Your electorate received some of these grants, didn't they? What's your view on this whole affair?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I think community sporting grants are incredibly important. I mean one area where we see underinvestment in electorates like mine and right across Australia is in sporting facilities for young families. I have an electorate with a lot of young families, particularly on the edge of Sydney, and we do need investment in sporting infrastructure and these programs are very positive in helping to support that.

ANDREW CLENNELL: But it was pork-barrelling wasn't it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: You know, telling a young family who has kids in a growing area where there are not enough sporting facilities or those sporting facilities need to be upgraded that they shouldn't have that kind of investment, I mean that, these are investments that really matter on the ground.

ANDREW CLENNELL: But shouldn't Bridget McKenzie have listened to her department on it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: She stayed within the rules. She's been very clear on that. But I will say that investment in sporting infrastructure in local areas, like in my electorate and right across Australia, is enormously important to that sense of amenity and community. You know, anyone with kids knows how important it is to be able to have sporting clubs you can take your kids to, they can practice during the weekdays, they've got space to play on weekends. This really counts as stuff. And I strongly back these sorts of programs to make sure we have that infrastructure in place.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Alright Mr Taylor just finally, one of your colleagues said to me this morning that you were good in the business world but there were concerns about your performance in the political world, and you might not be selling the emissions reduction message as well as you should. Do you accept that criticism?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We're meeting and meeting our targets and-

ANDREW CLENNELL: [Talks over] With carryover credits.

ANGUS TAYLOR: We are meeting and beating our targets and-

ANDREW CLENNELL: [Talks over] With carryover credits.

ANGUS TAYLOR: And at the end of the day, you know, Australians deserve to be given credit for their overachievement. There's not many countries in the world that have that level of overachievement. Australians deserve to be given credit for it. It's not by a little bit, it's by a lot. It's almost a year's worth of emissions. As I say, will strive every day - this is not sit and forget - to meet and beat those targets. But we will never put someone's job at risk or the economy at risk more broadly or incomes at risk more broadly in order to achieve some overly aggressive targets like Labor's.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Would you expect to stay at 26 to 28 by 2030? No change what so ever.

ANGUS TAYLOR: We've set our targets and there's no plan to change those targets.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Alright Mr Taylor, thank you very much for your time.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Andrew.