Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

Ben Fordham
fuel price; fuel excise

BEN FORDHAM: Let's find out how things are going in the south west. Angus Taylor is the federal Energy Minister and I think he's now in Sydney, not in Camden anymore. But he's in touch with what's going on there. Angus Taylor, good morning.

ANGUS TAYLOR: G'day, Ben. Yeah, I've spent the last two days down there at Camden and Picton. And some pretty tragic circumstances. Happily, despite the challenges we've had in the last couple of days, the rain was not nearly as heavy yesterday as we expected, and that's giving some relief. And the forecast is looking better now.

BEN FORDHAM: All right. Well, that's good news in Camden. Now, we've had thousands of people without power. You've issued a directive to the energy companies.

ANGUS TAYLOR: I have. So this is – we've asked to put in place the regulator to stand up a statement of expectations, as it's called. This is what we put in place during the pandemic to protect consumers and what it means in practical terms is that customers who are affected by the floods can't be disconnected for – other than for safety or at their own request, of course. That any who are in financial distress should be put on a payment plan – in other words, they shouldn't be asked to pay simply because they are not able to. And they should be waived – the company should be waiving any disconnection or reconnection break fees as well.  I mean, these are common sense things, and the companies for the most part do them. But we have had instances in the past where they haven't, and so we're asking the regulator to make sure she is things are in place and people are given a fair go at what's a really tough time. Still, over 19,000 people are out of their homes across the east coast, and that's a very tough time for people.

BEN FORDHAM: Yeah, I mean, it's scary. But it's also stressful for people. And the stress goes on and on and on. I'll tell you something else that's causing some stress – and that's petrol prices. Unleaded 95 is hovering between $1.92 and $2.36. Unleaded 98 between $1.97 and $2.44. Will you consider doing something about the fuel excise because John Howard paused it 20 years ago? I know that Rex Patrick, the Independent Senator, has supported calls to do the same. Pauline Hanson is today as well. We've been talking about this for a month or so. Will you do something about it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'll tell you what we're doing, Ben. We're working with countries across the world to release oil onto the market now to get more supply in place. And that's always going to be the best possible answer here. Last week there was an agreement made, led by ourselves and the United States to begin releasing oil and that will start very soon. We're working through the exact numbers, but that will start very soon. The broader issue you ask about the excise is not something we have in our plans now. I understand the pain that people are feeling. Let me tell you, I see it every day and I hear it every day as Energy Minister. It's very real. The prices we are seeing driven by what's happening in the Ukraine right now have got to high levels and there's no immediate relief in sight. Although the extra supply –

BEN FORDHAM: Why not do that, though, the way John Howard did it 20 years ago – pause the fuel excise?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I understand the issue, but the pause on the fuel excise made a tiny difference. And we're talking about a cent or two because of the inflation –

BEN FORDHAM: Do you reckon John Howard would agree with that? If I contacted Mr Howard and said that Angus Taylor is saying that only made a tiny difference?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, I'm saying in the current circumstances given where prices are today. It was very different back then. That was back in the early 2000s, prices were at different levels. We've got different circumstances now. And the excise is a different proportion of the total price. So, look, I get that it's a big deal. There's no doubt about that. And we see the pain people are feeling at the pump. The excise is used to fund road spending. That's the basis for it and has been for a long time. And we want to keep that road-building going. I mean, as I drive around during the floods I see how much more work has to go into our roads in the coming years, and that has to be paid for. But we do understand the pain people are feeling at the pump. There's no doubt about that. 

BEN FORDHAM: All right. And just lastly, when you talk about that tiny difference, I mean it's 44 cents per litre every time we fill up.

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, sorry, Ben, let me clarify that. I'm talking about stopping indexation on excise.

BEN FORDHAM: All right, so –


BEN FORDHAM: Are you absolutely now ruling out any change to the fuel excise between now and Election Day?

ANGUS TAYLOR: What I'm saying is we have no plans to do that, Ben. We have no plans to do that. What we do have a plan to do is release extra supply onto the market. And let me tell you, Ben, the people who have been arguing against extra supply of oil being developed, explored and developed in places like the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory, the activists who have been stopping that from happening need to get out of the way and let us get extra supply on to the market. 


ANGUS TAYLOR: That is the key here. And that is what we must do.

BEN FORDHAM: I've got a pothole that I've got to deal with right now because it's on a major motorway, so I'd bet go and do that right now with Dean, and I'll say goodbye to you. Thanks, Angus Taylor. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Ben.

BEN FORDHAM: Angus Taylor, the Federal Energy Minister.