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Interview with Kieran Gilbert and Laura Jayes, AM Agenda, Sky News

3 December 2018

Subject: Energy

E&OE

KIERAN GILBERT: Joining us now is the Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Thanks so much for your time. The former prime minister says it was his intention - and Scott Morrison was aware of that - to go in March, were you aware of that at the time?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, I wasn't Kieran but, look, Australians want governments to serve their term. We hear that all the time. What they want most of all is for us to unite and fight against a potential Shorten-Labor government - because they understand that $200 billion of extra tax is not good for them. Look, I was in South Western Sydney on Saturday, in my electorate, and what I heard again and again was fear about what's going to happen to the construction industry there, it's driving a huge number of jobs for tradies, for manufacturers and others. They're worried about what Labor is going to do to negative gearing, capital gains tax, what it will do to the industry. They want us to unite and fight - and that's what I do every day. Lower energy prices, congestion-busting infrastructure, lower taxes. Look, our track record is brilliant on this. Back to surplus next year - we're in a position where we can fund those services - health and education - every Australian wants. We have to unite, fight, tell that story every day and most importantly keep delivering for Australians right through to the full term of this government.

LAURA JAYES: Well, what's your message to Malcolm Turnbull then because he has made this intervention? He says he's no longer in politics but he is a member of the Liberal Party in New South Wales. Has his intervention today been helpful?

ANGUS TAYLOR: My message isn't to Malcolm Turnbull, my message is to Bill Shorten, is that Australians don't want $200 billion dollars of extra taxes. They want a government that can afford to spend money on congestion-busting infrastructure and health and education, they want lower energy prices. I mean, we're seeing Labor - it's an extraordinary situation - where they're siding with the energy companies against middle Australia, against hard-working families and small businesses. We're seeing them siding to protect encrypted communications within terrorist networks. I mean, this is an extraordinary turn of events where we sit on the side of middle Australians, consumers, mums and dads, hard-working Australians.

KIERAN GILBERT: Yeah, we'll get through a few of those issues in a moment. But in terms of Malcolm Turnbull's intervention here talking about election timeframes and so on, that's clearly not helpful, is it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: You're the commentator, Kieran, I'm not a commentator-

KIERAN GILBERT: Well, see, what you can comment on as a member of the Liberal Party in New South Wales - is he entitled to be making comments to the state executive, as he says?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We can sit and opine on this all day, but what I'm going to sit and work to do every day is make sure that we're delivering for Australians. I mean, we have to unite and fight. That's what our supporters want us to do. That's what those who don't want a Shorten government want us to do, and there's a lot of them out there. I spoke to many of them on Saturday as I got around shopping centres in my electorate. Look, and this is what we have to do, Kieran, it's a core imperative for us. Issues for the New South Wales Liberal Party, I'll leave for the New South Wales Liberal Party. What we have to do now is get on, unite and fight, and keep delivering for Australians as we have - over a-million jobs. I have got unemployment in my electorate which is essentially non-existent, essentially non-existent. I mean, we've never seen this before. This is an extraordinary situation. We have to make the most of it, we have to keep delivering on those commitments that we've been delivering on for six years.

LAURA JAYES: But, Angus Taylor, I know that you are keen to talk about the economy but whilst essentially you are talking about yourselves, you've got this intervention from Malcolm Turnbull, you have Craig Kelly threatening to go to the crossbench if he didn't win pre-selection. I mean, do you really think that if he went to the crossbench he would vote no confidence in Scott Morrison?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, I tell you what I'm working towards, Laura, it's making sure that every MP that's part of this team that is delivering gets back into Parliament for another term. That's what we've got to focus on because that means we'll keep delivering what we have been, we'll keep hitting those outcomes that we have. One million jobs - no one thought that was possible. I remember it distinctly at the time, when we said a million jobs in two terms, we've delivered well more than a-million jobs in two terms. We stopped the boats, no one thought it was possible - no one thought it was possible. Congestion-busting infrastructure, hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars being spent in Western Sydney, new airport - no one said it was possible, they all said it was impossible. We're doing it all. So, we need to focus on that. We've got a great team. I want to see that team return, each one of them - each one of them - including Craig Kelly.

KIERAN GILBERT: You say that the Labor Party siding with the big energy companies - their argument is that they're siding with certainty in the business community. We're already seeing today suggestions that not just the energy companies but others, as well, have been briefing barristers about challenging these big stick laws - as they're put - in terms of divestment that it would be a bad precedent. What do you say to that and is your legal advice suggesting that these laws would hold up?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, the certainty Australians want is a fair deal on energy prices and Labor is not standing up for that. They are siding with the energy companies against that certainty. That's what-

KIERAN GILBERT: But would your laws hold up in court?

ANGUS TAYLOR: In terms of the legislation, we get advice when we bring forward legislation. We've got advice. We're confident in our legal position and we want to get on with it. I mean, the truth of the matter is what I want and what the Government wants is the energy companies to get on and do the right thing by their customers, get focused back on their customers.

KIERAN GILBERT: But they've said they're going to do that, you're just grandstanding. Aren't you, with about the big stick, it's all grandstanding?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, there's no good saying you're going to do it. You've got to do it, Kieran. Now, we've seen we've seen some good improvements in standing offer prices over the last couple of weeks. It's the beginning, not the end. That's a good start but we've got to go a lot further than that. The truth of the matter is if they get on and focus back on their customers, this is an industry that has lost focus on its customers. The ACCC report made that very, very clear. If they focus on their customers, deliver fair deals for all Australians - hardworking families, and small businesses - then I'm confident the big stick can go back in the bag and we can get on with other things. But this is an industry that needs to change its culture - it needs to have a customer culture, not just a culture of focusing on itself.

LAURA JAYES: Well, the Business Council and others say that it's quasi-judicial and represents a deep and genuine sovereign risk. But also today, Angus Taylor, we see South Australia is now a net energy exporter to Victoria. So much for South Australia being the basket case of Australia. How do you respond to that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Most of the time, South Australia is actually importing to back up its intermittency. It has amongst the highest electricity prices in the world. It struggles to keep the lights on. And at the end of the day if you take Labor's 45 per cent emission reduction targets and what they're proposing to do - $15 billion dollars of new subsidies - to go to the energy companies, we're going to see more of what we've seen in South Australia, which is an unstable grid and amongst the highest electricity prices in the world. We don't want that experiment rolled out across Australia. You'll see it rolled out across Australia under a Labor government. You certainly won’t see it rolled out under us.

KIERAN GILBERT: As Laura said, though, how then is that state exporting the energy supply to the Victorians?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, it has intermittent generation, and there's days where it has lots and there's days where it has very little. That's the problem, that's exactly the problem, Kieran. At the end of the day, you've got to have enough 24/7 reliable power in the system that when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine, you've got enough to meet customer needs on those very hot days or very cold days where demand is highest. Now, right now in South Australia, we don't have that baseload reliable dispatchable power, that 24/7 power, we don't have enough of it. We have a market there, importantly, that's controlled by a small number of players that the ACCC has pointed out, that there is not liquidity in that market. It is being controlled by a small number of players. It's very hard for new entrants to come in, very high prices and we have to break that - we have to break that.

LAURA JAYES: Minister, do you take any lessons out of the Victorian election result? As Energy Minister, perhaps the party has misjudged the popularity of renewables. Do you accept that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I take lessons out of all election results. In the South Australian election, of course, we saw a fantastic Liberal government voted in, and one of the things they said they were going to do is stabilise electricity in South Australia in a situation where they have amongst the highest prices, and they are struggling to meet their demand. Now, the truth is, is if Victoria keeps going in the same direction it is, it's going to end up in exactly the same situation.

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay. Let's talk about - you were the architect of the approach to the encryption, use of encrypted messages by the terrorists and the Government's response to it. You were the Minister responsible up until recently. Is it unfair to say to the Labor Party that they are backing terrorists and messaging on encrypted technology, given their saying they're being constructive, they're willing to talk and get this done by the end of the week? They've been bipartisan on national security for years under Bill Shorten. Is the Government - are you and the Prime Minister over-egging? Is it offensive as well to Labor to say that they'd be backing terrorist communication here?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I tell you what's offensive, it's running a protection racket for terrorist networks who communicate using encrypted applications and shutting down - taking those dark. We see this right now, it's happening at a rapid rate, it's been happening for a number of years, where terrorist networks, drug smuggling networks, child sex offender networks all using encrypted apps to undertake their heinous activities.

KIERAN GILBERT: But Labor would surely-

ANGUS TAYLOR: And Labor-

KIERAN GILBERT: You can't suggest Labor would be running a protection racket.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Labor, just as they're siding with the big energy companies, they're siding with the big tech companies now. I mean, look, you've got to be clear-

KIERAN GILBERT: Aren't they siding with the privacy of you and me using the same message and everyday viewers this morning using those messages? Don't they want safeguards? Surely, to suggest this is a protection racket for terrorists is overstepping the mark?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, absolutely not, Kieran. I mean, you are seeing vast majority of communications within those networks being done now by encrypted apps. Now, you have to deal with that, and Labor's willingness to deal with that is minimal. It must be dealt with. If it is not dealt with, we'll be leaving these people to do what they do without any prospect of prosecution and throwing them in jail, which at the end of the day is what's got to happen for people who undertake these sorts of activities. This is profoundly important for our national security, for our law enforcement. There are protections in the legislation - and they're very important protections - which make sure that we don't create new systemic weaknesses, that make sure that electronic protection is not taken away. All of those things are protected in the legislation but we must ensure that our law enforcement and national security agencies get access to these communications and Labor is standing in the way.

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay. Minister, we appreciate your time. Thank you. We'll talk to you soon.