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Interview with Chris Kenny, Sky News

13 November 2020

Interviewer: 
Chris Kenny

Subject: Climate action, Australia's emissions reduction target

E&OE

CHRIS KENNY: Angus Taylor, thanks for joining us. First up on climate action, what are your thoughts on a couple of recent developments? You had Extinction Rebellion in the UK using Remembrance Day for a climate action stunt. At the same time, we’ve got Prince Charles, none other than Prince Charles delivering yet another warning to the world that we’re on the cusp of disaster if we don’t act. It’s just all too much, isn’t it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, what Extinction Rebellion did there in the UK was a disgrace, Chris. To see them use Remembrance Day, which is a day where we remember those who have fought, served, and died for our country, and the same in the UK of course, to use that as a political tool, if you like, I think it’s a disgrace. And look, the fact of the matter is whatever Prince Charles says is the focus here has just got to be on sensible policies that are not going to hurt hardworking Australians or people around the world, and are going to ensure that we use technology to get to better outcomes but at the same time, we drive down the cost of energy, and create jobs, such as in manufacturing. That’s the focus of this Government. Of course, the Labor Party is tearing themselves up this week - I’m sure we’ll get to that, over exactly that issue - but that sensible balanced approach is what Australians want. And the sort of antics you're seeing from Extinction Rebellion are completely unacceptable.

CHRIS KENNY: But the alarmism doesn't help either. And yet it's amazingly sort of 10, 15 years into this debate, 20 years into this debate, we still see alarmism. And the latest report from the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO keeps telling us again about looming disaster there. We're going to listen to what they say, of course, but their records always conveniently leave out the 1890s, the federation drought and all the heat records from then. And they say: we've never seen anything like the last 10 years before.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Sure, and look, the truth is and I know this from the farming I do and my family does, that climate appears to be changing. There's no doubt about that. And we've seen drier years and less frontal systems coming up in southern Australia. But the real issue here is how to make sure we do sensible things and do what human beings always do when they're faced with a challenge, which is deploy technology and innovation to solve problems. Solve real problems, not imagined problems, but the real problems we have. And of course, the key to that affordable, reliable energy. That's what we all want to see. I know technology, we all know technology has played a crucial role over hundreds of years in delivering affordable, reliable energy to Australians and others, and it will again. That is the key for us to focus on. In Australia, we're doing that. I mean, one-in-four Australians have got household solar now. Good on them. That's use of technology. The subsidies that have existed in the past are coming off and that's appropriate for a technology that's coming of age. And we get on with solving real problems in a sensible, balanced way.

CHRIS KENNY: But if the climate is changing, there'll be swings and roundabouts. And if Australia is copping the costs of climate change, we can't change that. Whatever Australia does, we can't change that. We've got to be sensible about our approach, and hope the rest of the world is as well. Are you concerned that you've got state governments, and most notably just recently the New South Wales Government actually launching renewable energy projects, actually committing to net zero emissions by 2050? Could their initiatives undermine the stability of the national grid?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I make two comments about what we've seen from New South Wales just this week. On the one hand, they're the first state government to recognise that alongside the record level of investments we've seen in renewables, there has to be dispatchable generation, baseload generation. There has to be generation that’s there when you flick the switch, and that is part of their plan. So that's good news. I think the danger with the plan is that it forces coal-fired generation out of the market prematurely. We saw what happened with that in Victoria with Hazelwood, with Northern in South Australia and the price impact it had and the reliability impact it had. So, as always, with these things, Chris, the right answer is to get the balance right and it is important that New South Wales do that. We'll be working closely with them to make sure that we get a sensible outcome from what they want to achieve and not one that's going to drive up the cost of energy, drive jobs out of manufacturing and drive up bills for small businesses and households.

CHRIS KENNY: Well, even Federal Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon understands that. He's a New South Wales MP. He understands the need to keep that dispatchable, coal-fired and gas-fired electricity generation in the system. And up until a week ago, he was Labor's resources spokesperson.

ANGUS TAYLOR: That’s right, and of course Joel has called out the ideological zealotry that exists within the Labor Party that is completely at odds with their traditional base, which is the blue-collar workers and hardworking Australians that they’ve traditionally focused on, but clearly moving away from. But what’s going on Labor, I think, without any doubt, is a fight for the heart and soul of the Labor Party. And Joel Fitzgibbon, good on him, has made a call on this and said that hard working Australians have to be the centre of any political party’s focus and that they can’t afford to listen to the ideological zealots. Well, look, I agree with that, and it is absolutely crucial that we see all politicians in Australia focusing on affordable, reliable energy and the needs of hard-working Australians in industries like manufacturing. 850,000 Australians working in manufacturing, Chris. And if you don't have affordable, reliable energy, you don't have a manufacturing sector. So we do need to see sensible positions from those opposite. Three elections in a row they've gone to the Australian people with aggressive climate policies that have been clearly rejected. And, you know, we saw that at the last election. They've gone there with the same shadow minister each time, in Mark Butler, and indeed, he was the minister in 2013 going into that election. And three times he’s failed-

CHRIS KENNY: Now you’re starting to sound like Joel Fitzgibbon, you’re reading Joel Fitzgibbon’s lines, Angus Taylor. [Laughs] I just want to finish off on one point, though, because a lot of this focuses on net-zero by 2050. As a signatory to the Paris Agreement, Australia is committed, is it not, to effectively net zero by sometime after 2050?

ANGUS TAYLOR: So the Paris Agreement has a global commitment to net-zero and we are party to that in the second half of the century. But as we've always said, Chris, the way to do this is through technology, not taxes. When it comes to policy, there are ultimately two options. You can either allow and facilitate businesses, households, industry to buy technologies as they come of age, which are lower emissions, cleaner - that's a good thing - if the economics work, that's good for your economy. Or you can impose taxes. And the position we've taken all the way along is the way we will get there and frankly, the way the rest of the world will get there - countries like India and China, developing countries who are very sensitive to the cost of energy - is through the deployment of technology, which is commercial, which doesn't impose burdens, which doesn't impose costs, which don't raise the cost of electricity and energy more broadly. That's the way to do it. That's been our approach. We'd like the Labor Party to join us in that. It is clear that Joel is saying that they should. But that is absolutely essential for a country like ours which is a big exporter of emissions intensive products. And of course, that's why we have to do this in a sensible way with the deployment of technology.

CHRIS KENNY: We'll have to check in and see how all these promises turn out in 2050 when I'll be approaching 90 years of age. Thanks for joining us, Angus Taylor.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Good on you, thanks Chris.

Media contact:

Minister Taylor's office: 02 6277 7120