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

8 October 2018

Subject: Energy


KIERAN GILBERT: Joining Laura and I now is the Energy Minister, Angus Taylor. Minister, thanks very much for your time. I want to ask you about this major climate report by the UN's climate body that says coal generated power has to be phased out by 2050 internationally, if the worst effects of climate change are to be avoided. What's your response to that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well Kieran, we haven't seen the report yet - that's a leak - but what I'd say is we're going to meet our Paris commitments. We met our Kyoto commitments in round one by 124 million tonnes easily. We'll reach our Kyoto phase two commitments easily, and I'm confident we'll meet our Paris commitments easily. In the electricity market we know that we're well on target to reaching the 26 per cent reduction in the early 2020s, and that is why our focus, Kieran, has to be on affordability and reliability. That has to be the focus. I'm sure we'll talk about that in a moment, but we know we're going to reach that 26 per cent relatively quickly.

KIERAN GILBERT: That's for electricity, but more broadly of course, there are some other big polluting sectors who will have to chip in if the nation is going to meet its overall target of 26 to 28 per cent?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Sure, but look at Kyoto, look at our track record. That's the point. We have achieved these targets easily. Easily. Both phase one, and we're well on target to reaching, not just reaching but over-reaching phase two by a significant margin. That's by 2020. So our track record on this is good and I'm very confident that we will reach those Paris targets.

LAURA JAYES: Angus Taylor, can you see any scenario in which Australia would move to phase out coal by 2050 though?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well the key here is not to focus on an industry Laura, it's to focus on the outcome, and this is where this debate keeps going wrong. It is the outcomes that matter and reaching Paris is part of that outcome. Now, we also know that Australia is around 1 per cent of global emissions, so the critical thing here is other countries and whether it is China, or India, the developing world is where there is a great deal of growth and emissions, and it is going to be crucial that they contribute over time. So let's be clear here, we are confident that we will reach those targets. We are confident based on our track record because we have reached them so easily in the past.

LAURA JAYES: Angus Taylor, it wouldn't have escaped your attention - last week the cover of the front page of the Fairfax newspapers was carrying a quote by one of the architects of the Paris Agreement and it was referred to - this oft repeated line by Scott Morrison - that we are going to meet our Paris targets in a canter. Now she said, that that wasn't borne out by the evidence, that international scientists didn't support that. What did you think when you saw that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well it's the job of the IPCC and international scientists to look at what the targets should be. It's not to decide whether or not we're going to reach our targets - that's our job. As I say, look, the track record here is so clear Laura - we've done it in Kyoto one, we'll do it easily on Kyoto two. We have a good track record. We have a much better track record than almost any other country in the world. There are very few that are comparable with us, and a number of countries are not going to reach their Kyoto commitments. Well we will. That's pretty good form, and in this race, I go on form.

KIERAN GILBERT: Energy Minister, I want to as asked about a piece written in The Financial Review today by the Origin's Chief Frank Calabria in which he refers to a couple of issues taking up the Government's adoption of a default price. He warns about the complexity around having a default price, that that would have to be updated regularly. He's also warning against emotive rhetoric and knee-jerk policies. Can you understand why he might feel a bit concerned right now given he and others within that sector have been right in the spotlight?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well Kieran, what you didn't say is that he said in that article that he welcomes the focus on getting prices down and not focusing on customers and what they need which is lower prices, and he also acknowledged that there's been some dodgy practices in the past - his words not mine - dodgy practices in the past that needed to stop and they do, Kieran. There is no doubt about that. One of those areas-

KIERAN GILBERT: But do you feel for some of the companies like Origin who feel they're being tarnished by the same brush as some of those who might have been undertaking those dodgy practices?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I don't need to feel for them too much - wholesale prices have gone up by well over 200 per cent in the last little while and that all is profit that goes back to the generator retailers - gentailers as they're called. So we don't need to feel too sorry for them but the chief executive's focus on getting prices down, on stopping the dodgy practices, I wholeheartedly endorse, and I will work with him to make sure that happens. That's what we need to see, Kieran. One of the areas where there have been bad practices is in what's called the standing offers, the default prices. They already exist. I'm not talking about bringing something new in. We just want to make sure they're fair. They're the price customers get if they haven't got time to negotiate. Around 20 per cent of small business customers end up on these default prices. They need to be fair prices Kieran, and we will strive to make sure they are fair prices.

LAURA JAYES: Minister, he's also concerned about this ACCC report. Not the report per se, but the cherry picking of it. Can you give the commitment, and Rod Sims said this as well, that this report should be taken holistically by the Government. Do you give that commitment to implement all - I think it is 53 - recommendations?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We are working our way through the recommendations. We'll have more to say about a whole lot more of them in the next little while. We've just been talking about one of them but there are many we're already working our way through. We've said that we will. We've said we'll stop the big rip offs from the big energy companies and there's a series of recommendations focused on that. We've said that we'll back investment in new generation and there's recommendations focused on that. We've also said that this default price needs to be fixed. It needs to be a fair price and the ACCC Commissioner Rod Sims has made it very clear that that needs to be a focus. So there is a range of recommendations we've already adopted and there'll be more.

KIERAN GILBERT: Finally, I want to ask you as a member for the regional areas, around the Goulburn area, but you're obviously, your constituents affected by the drought like so many others around this country. Explain to those viewers in regional areas this morning what exactly this latest $75 million in assistance is going to do. Is it basically a stimulus package for those towns?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well there's already significant initiatives for farmers. This is focused on the businesses in those towns which are most drought affected, where agriculture is a very significant part of that local economy and where the drought is bad - it is not just farmers that are affected, the flow on is to all the little local businesses whether you're an agronomist or you're a retailer or you're a hairdresser; it doesn't matter. You see in those drought affected towns - which I've lived in for much of my life at various times - they are really heavily impacted - those small businesses, and this is $1 million to those communities to invest in projects that are going to help the town and the businesses in the town not just the farmers. There's obviously parallel initiatives for the farms. It's a really crucial part of what happens in a drought. All the focus goes on the farmers and there should be strong focus on the farmers.


ANGUS TAYLOR: But it's those other businesses that are also impacted, Kieran.

KIERAN GILBERT: Angus Taylor, Energy Minister thanks so much. Well talk to you soon.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thank you.