Interview with Kieran Gilbert AM Agenda, Sky News

Climate Change, International

KIERAN GILBERT:    Joining me now the Energy Minister and Minister - soon to be - for Emissions Reduction. Congratulations on the win.

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Thanks, Kieran.

KIERAN GILBERT:    And Goulburn was one of those that swung very much in your favour. Why is that?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well, all of Hume swung well in our favour, but so did many other seats right across Australia. And I think the Prime Minister nailed it, Kieran. It was the quiet Australians. It was those Australians who aren't noisy in the press. They're not noisy on Twitter, but they get about their lives and they gave us support and you know it's wonderful to have that support. It's extraordinary vindication of the campaign that the Prime Minister ran, but most importantly the policies that we took to the election. Because I think those quiet Australians understood those policies, they liked them, they want to see a Coalition Government in for another term. And of course, that's what happened. 

KIERAN GILBERT:    So, in areas where you wouldn't necessarily think traditional, you know, blue ribbon Liberal voters, why did they vote for you this time? What were the key issues?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well, I think they do like our policies. I think they do want a government that's going to provide less tax but at the same time deliver those essential services that we said we'd deliver. They want a government that is going to take forward sensible climate and energy policies. Of course we'll talk about that in a moment, I'm sure. They want to see a government that is getting about doing the job without grandstanding on much more extreme positions like the 45 per cent renewable emission reduction target and 50 per cent renewable energy targets. So, look, it's the sensible policies we took to the election that clearly won the day in my electorate and in many electorates across Australia.

KIERAN GILBERT:    Is one of the other issues, that wasn't really picked up as being a major vote shifter, but the issue of religious freedom, was that something that resonated with voters in your part of the world?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Yeah, I mean, look, I think this is important. People see that religious freedom is an important issue and there's no doubt during the course of the election campaign, that came up. And I think those of faith felt strongly about this issue, and certainly I saw that in my electorate.

KIERAN GILBERT:    Let's look to the issue of energy and emissions reduction which you're taking on board. It's interesting, I want to ask you about the fact that the Prime Minister is heading to the Solomon Islands next week, and the government wants to re-assert its authority and influence in the Pacific. But you'd recognise that for the Pacific, climate change and emission reduction is a huge issue. It's their number one issue, isn't it?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Yeah and of course, we're going to meet our international obligations, as we did for our Kyoto One obligations in 2010. We'll meet our Kyoto Two obligations easily in 2020, and of course we will again for Paris in 2030. So that's what we've consistently done, we took that to the election, the 26 per cent emission reduction target. It's a sensible, proportionate target, and we'll meet those international obligations. Look, we're one of the few countries in the world that has consistently done this, Kieran, and we've been an out-performer on this issue. 

KIERAN GILBERT:    But how do you- how can you make the commitment that you'll meet the 26 to 28 per cent on the direct action approach? Is that the driving force behind that?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Kieran, it's one of them. Look, we've got 328 million tonnes of abatement we know we've got to achieve. We went through those numbers, they were all published in December last year. We know exactly how we're going to achieve that right down to the last tonne. Now, the ERF - as it was then - the Climate Solutions Fund now, the climate solutions package more generally, lays out to the last tonne how we're going to do it, that Climate Solutions Fund is about a third of the total. It's an important part of it, it's been a very successful model. It's a model that has been used in many countries across the world, and it has worked. So we're confident we can achieve those numbers and the important point here is track record. We have achieved Kyoto One, we've achieved Kyoto Two- over-achieved Kyoto Two by 367 million tonnes. And we're confident we'll do the same with this. 

KIERAN GILBERT:    Frank Bainimarama, the Fijian Prime Minister, issued a statement very much warmly welcoming the election of Scott Morrison. He said in Australia you've defied all expectations, let us take the same underdog attitude that inspired your victory to the global fight against climate change. It was really the only policy area that he issued in this statement of congratulations, but he focused on that. What will Scott Morrison- what will your government say to leaders like him if they say we want more ambition, given it's existential as they see it?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well there's lots of ambition. We're going to achieve that 26 per cent target. Though look, the most important point here is delivery, Kieran. It's delivery. It's actually delivering. There's a lot of countries in the world that haven't delivered on their commitments, we have and we will. And that is the crucial point we took to the election, a very clear policy in this area. People seem surprised that we're going to deliver that policy that we're going to focus on executing that policy in the coming months and years, and that's what we took to the election and that's what we're going to do. 

KIERAN GILBERT:    But it's not surprising. But I guess what- but you don't want to have a tin ear either to those who are your next door neighbours. 

ANGUS TAYLOR:    No, no. I understand, but the important point we'll make is that we as a country deliver on our commitments. We deliver on our commitments. We have, and we will. 

KIERAN GILBERT:    And within that international framework, that was the target, the 26 to 28 per cent, is there any, do you think there’s scope for exceeding that, particularly if you look at your various projects that you're going to sign off on I guess in the coming months on new energy generation? Is there a way that you can be more ambitious but still keep the lights on?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Look, we took a 26 per cent target to the election and that's what we're going to focus on delivering now. 

KIERAN GILBERT:    But you could exceed it?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    And we've got to do that consistent…

KIERAN GILBERT:    Is there a chance you could exceed it?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well, there's always a chance. I mean, we exceeded Kyoto One and Kyoto Two. But look, there's 11 years to go here Kieran. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. The focus now is on achieving that. We've laid out to the last tonne how we plan to do it. We've got to deliver on those initiatives and importantly we've got to deliver on driving down the price of electricity, the cost of energy, protecting or at least ensuring that we don't trash those crucial industries and jobs that are so central to the Australian economy in resources, in agriculture and irrigation, in manufacturing and transport. We are determined to keep those industries prosperous and healthy and at the same time, put this downward pressure on energy costs which is so crucial for those industries and for households. 

KIERAN GILBERT:    Do you feel that Australia's got credibility in the eyes of the Pacific leaders? The reason I ask that is because the week before the election the Samoan Prime Minister made a bit of a crack at your government. He said I think we shouldn't worry too much about them, the question will be answered by the voters, let us keep our fingers crossed is what he said in the lead-up to the election. Obviously the outcome that he wanted didn't eventuate, what do you say to them and to Samoan leadership and others in the region about the government's credibility on those matters?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well, the Prime Minister will talk to them and I'll leave that to him. But as you know, Kieran, we took a clear set of policies to the election. We won the election. We're now going to focus on delivery. That's the key now. It's back to work, it's getting on with the job whether it's in economic policy or energy policy. And that's exactly what I'll be doing and I know the rest of the team will be doing the same.

KIERAN GILBERT:    Anthony Albanese's the new Labor Leader. He's saying that he believes in market- the market reaction to Adani once they've cleared the environmental hurdles then that's it. Is that a fair enough response, are you happy with that shift in language from him vis-à-vis his predecessor?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well I think the crucial question for Albanese is does he support the coal export industry and our major export sectors like the coal industry? Is he going to support them? And he seems to be pretty unclear on that. I'm pleased that he's not saying he's going to get in the way. But the crucial point here is this - there is a large part of the Australian economy - particularly in Queensland, in regional Queensland - which is dependent on these industries, Kieran. And ultimately, you've got to make a call about whether or not you want to support those industries. We do, we think it's completely consistent with our international obligations. And-

KIERAN GILBERT:    Does that go to, you know, one of those projects on your list, your short list, for new generation? Will you go that far to say - okay, we will focus on coal in that sense?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well at the end of the day what matters here is that we meet our international obligations and that we put downward pressure on energy costs so that we can keep those critical industries prosperous and reduce household bills. That's what we'll do. It's the outcomes we're focused on, Kieran, it's the outcomes we took to the election and we will achieve those. And this is the crucial thing now - it's back to work, it's delivery that counts.

KIERAN GILBERT:    But if you can boost some of those communities that you referred to by approving one of these projects with coal as its focus, would you consider doing that?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well at the end of the day, everything will be judged against the outcomes we want to achieve. That's what the Australian people want and that's what we took to the election.


ANGUS TAYLOR:    And that's how we're going to approach this and that’s exactly as it should be. We do want to make sure these crucial industries that are the backbone of - particularly of regional areas in Queensland, in New South Wales, in Victoria, in Western Australia of course - we want to see that those industries continue to thrive and prosper. It is absolutely essential we do this. The Labor Party has been ambiguous on this issue, there's no ambiguity from us, we want to see these industries succeed. 

KIERAN GILBERT:    When you look at the broader climate policies and reduction targets and so on, they have a broader impact as well, don't they, in terms of we want to secure a fair trade agreement with the EU. The EU won't sign free trade agreements with any country that isn't seen to have ambitious enough or credible policies on climate change. Is that something that is factored in in terms of the discussion on that?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well let's be clear here. The 26 per cent target is one…

KIERAN GILBERT:    I'm not saying it's not credible.

ANGUS TAYLOR:    …of the most ambitious targets in the world. It's a very strong target.

KIERAN GILBERT:    Is that part of the government's consideration in all of this, that you can't just make policy in a silo, so to speak.

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Yeah but the suggestion you were making in your question-

KIERAN GILBERT:    It's not a suggestion, I'm just asking if that is considered in terms of your policies - you know discussions with the EU and others - who do have very much forward leaning climate policies.

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well we have more ambitious targets per capita and certainly for the growth rate of our economy than almost any other country in the world, I mean there's no doubt about it. And we've achieved in the past. So we're not lacking for ambition here, now the key is to deliver. And a crucial issue here is will Labor join us so we've got bipartisanship on this now. It would make a huge difference; industry, business want to see this. This is a big call for Labor they've got to decide whether they're going to join with us. We can get bipartisanship here.

KIERAN GILBERT:    But what do you need their support on?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well to agree to the 26 per cent target I mean we took that to the election, we've won the election let's get on with it, let's deliver. There's an opportunity for Labor to join us and there'd be bipartisanship on this crucial issue. 

KIERAN GILBERT:    You might be in office until then, who knows?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well we'd like to have their support. I think it's important.

KIERAN GILBERT:    Angus Taylor, thanks, good to see you.

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Thank you.