Interview with Chris Smith, 2GB
22 May 2019
CHRIS SMITH: The re-elected Member for Hume and federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor joins me on the line. Minister, thank you for your time. Congratulations.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Chris. Thanks for having me.
CHRIS SMITH: Now listen, I've only seen you in a suit and a tie, and you're very well presented. Did you let your hair down on Saturday night at all and really celebrate it? [Laughter] Because given the shock decision on Saturday night, they're the best celebrations aren't they?
ANGUS TAYLOR: They sure are. I was at the Tatts Hotel in Goulburn, and at the RSL in Camden. You know, it was a wonderful celebration and a great outcome, and I think that the key point here is it was a great victory for the quiet Australians - many of whom are your listeners, Chris. I was sorry to see Sarah Henderson and Chris Crewther lose - they're two great friends and great members of Parliament - but the overall victory was an extraordinary one. As I say, I mean, those quiet Australians, many of whom live in my electorate, I saw them at the polling booths and they were supporting us, and it was wonderful to see.
CHRIS SMITH: I thought the turning point in the election - and I said this on air yesterday - I thought the turning point was when in the argument over: oh we need a 45 per cent emissions reduction target, we need a 50 per cent renewable energy target, and then when push came to shove, it was uncosted, unfunded, and totally ridiculous. That's where he came a gutsa, would you agree?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, look, I think that was a major issue, Chris. You know, I've been pushing for months now, for a long time, since soon after I got into this role, that Labor needs to explain, needed to explain the details and impacts of those emissions policies. I know that they're economy wrecking. Now, Labor has an opportunity to respect our mandate because we've said we're not going to pursue those policies. We want bipartisanship now in this area of energy and emissions. We've put very clear policies forward before the election. We can get bipartisanship - the business community wants that, the community more broadly wants that. Now is the time as we're having this leadership debate in the Labor Party for them to respect our mandate.
CHRIS SMITH: Yeah, and franking credits, of course, the older Australians who cared about the fact that they were able to invest, even moderately or even minimally, that they could earn a living off their franking credits, they came into the polling booth with baseball bats, didn't they?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, they sure did, and it was very clear that voters - the retirees, tradies, young families - were backing us. Partly, it was the sorts of policies we were just talking about - the obsession with electric vehicles –
CHRIS SMITH: Urrgh.
ANGUS TAYLOR: And, you know, the lack of respect for industry, emissions intensive industries, you know, the resources sector. I've got coal mining in Tahmoor and Appin in my electorate, and the people who work in those mines just felt like Labor no longer backed them.
CHRIS SMITH: Yes.
ANGUS TAYLOR: I saw that in spades, Chris. But I also saw it with retirees - they felt like they weren't being respected with the franking credits. People working in the construction sector, the housing construction sector - big part of the economy and including in my electorate - they felt like the negative gearing and capital gains tax policies of Labor were not on their side, they were going to cruel the construction sector, and you know, this was a big issue. For all those reasons I don't see how Bowen can be fit to lead the Labor Party, frankly, because he was the architect of a lot of those tax policies.
CHRIS SMITH: Okay. Let's go forward - or as they say in the business world, moving forward - will you keep the energy portfolio and is the whisper right that you'll be adding emissions reduction to your role?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well look, ultimately, Chris, these are questions for the Prime Minister. I've enjoyed the challenge of the energy portfolio. It's not one of the easiest, as you know, but I'd serve the PM in any role in the country, in any role that the Prime Minister believes is best for the government and the country. Energy is obviously a very important one. We have to deliver on the policies that we've been pursuing - a very strong focus on more affordable energy, a fairer price for all Australians and for industry, the crucial jobs, and reliability, Chris, because we've faced very serious issues with reliability that we've been focused on our policies in recent months.
CHRIS SMITH: Because when Liddell closes down in two years' time, we are in trouble.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, and that's why we agreed with the states' the reliability obligation. The retailers now have to either replace Liddell or keep it going. There's no in-between anymore. Those rules were put into place in December and we've got to make sure that's delivered. This is a crucial part of the work that's got to be done over the coming month. Working closely with the state government as well, and it is great to see a Berejiklian State Government who, I think, will be good to work with on exactly this issue.
CHRIS SMITH: Can we build a HELE coal-fired power station and replace Liddell that way and have some hope of having reliable power into the years ahead?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, it's clear that either Liddell is extended or it's replaced. There's no in-between here. We've got to have the supply in the market and that's why we've got twelve projects that we've shortlisted. We've got to bring those projects to fruition. On top of that, we're doing feasibility on HELE coal in Queensland, in Collinsville. These are crucial projects to make sure we get the supply and the competition in the marketplace, and drive prices down. We've set a price target of a 25 per cent reduction in wholesale prices, in addition to the cap we're putting on retail prices which comes in on 1 July.
CHRIS SMITH: Okay. Back to-
ANGUS TAYLOR: These are all going to be implemented and it's crucially important.
CHRIS SMITH: Alright. Back to Liddell though, in that short list that you have put together, you've only got one coal project - Delta, Lake Macquarie. It's a coal upgrade.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Yes.
CHRIS SMITH: That's not a HELE coal-fired power station.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, no. Well, on top of that, we're doing feasibility in Collinsville on a HELE coal plant.
CHRIS SMITH: Right.
ANGUS TAYLOR: So, that is in addition to the one you just talked about. But look, the crucial point here is electricity prices are driven by having enough supply, enough competition and enough dispatchable supply, 24/7 supply - the stuff that's there when the sun goes down and the wind doesn't blow.
CHRIS SMITH: Yeah.
ANGUS TAYLOR: And we've got 4000 megawatts of capacity in this shortlist to bring onto the market. We've got to make that happen. This is a big and important job and Australian industry and households are relying on us getting it right.
CHRIS SMITH: Okay. I would like to get your reaction to what Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Queensland Premier, has just done an hour ago. She stood in front of a coal loader, C-O-A-L loader, [Laughter] and she said that she's going to get Adani and the Department of Environment together as soon as tomorrow so that they can agree on a timeline to decide on Adani and that timeline needs to be decided on this Friday. We're one step closer no doubt, and no doubt, the penny has dropped for Annastacia Palaszczuk as a result of Saturday night's election results in Queensland.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, Chris, Queenslanders called for jobs. It was loud and clear, and Palaszczuk should hear those calls because we've seen what happens when they're ignored. The resources sector is a crucial sector for Queensland, and Western Australia, and New South Wales as well. We want to see those sectors continue to prosper and thrive. That means the state government needs to get on board, and here's a real, there's an opportunity for them to do it, and I am sure the people of Queensland will be watching very, very closely.
CHRIS SMITH: Okay. Is there some move within Government to get rid of GetUp! from the polling booths? Because we read today that the Government is considering introducing rules to restrict spruikers outside polling booths unless, of course, they are political parties. Can you do this?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, GetUp! needs to decide what it is, Chris. Let me tell you a little story from the polling booth where I started the day in South Goulburn.
CHRIS SMITH: Yeah.
ANGUS TAYLOR: We saw a GetUp! volunteer arrive and start saying: “Vote 1 GetUp! Vote 1 GetUp!” Now, they can't work out whether they're a political party or they're just trying to influence the outcome. GetUp! needs to decide what it is and needs to be accountable for that, and right now, that is clearly not the case.
CHRIS SMITH: Yep. Well said. Thank you very much for your time. All the very best for the next term.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Good on you. Thanks, Chris