Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News

Laura Jayes
COP26, emissions targets, electric vehicles, company emissions

LAURA JAYES: Well, Glasgow has wrapped up. It was really billed as one of the most important climate change meetings of world leaders to set targets going forward. Australia is signed up, they’re part of the official communique, as are another 196 governments from right around the world. What does it mean for coal? Much has been made of this. Well, this was Boris Johnson the British Prime Minister’s take overnight.

BORIS JOHNSON: It is beyond question that Glasgow has sounded the death knell for coal power. It’s an immense thing to get a commitment from 190 countries to phase down or phase out coal. I don’t know whether the language is phase down or phase out but that doesn’t seem to me as a speaker of English to make that much difference. Your direction of travel is pretty much the same.

LAURA JAYES: Joining me live now is the Minister for Energy and Emission Reduction, Angus Taylor. Thanks so much for your time. Also as a speaker of English, do you agree with Boris Johnson there – that this is the death knell for coal?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, Laura, coal will be here next week and it will be here next year and it’s still an important part of the energy mix. There’s no doubt, though, that energy mix will continue to change in the coming years. Gas will play an important role for many years to come and renewables are coming on in Australia at a record level – highest level of household solar in the world, eight times the OECD average in terms of investment in renewables. So the mix will change; there’s no question about that. Our focus is on getting those low-emission technology costs down to a point where whether you’re a developing country or someone in Australia you invest in those technologies because it is good for you. So it’s not about eliminating things; it’s about making low-emissions technologies work and then people will choose them. And that matters not just inside Australia but it matters in customer countries across Asia, who are very important to us, of course.

LAURA JAYES: Yeah, well, we’re looking beyond the next couple of years when it comes to coal. Your own modelling says Australia’s coal production will halve by 2050, and that’s with the government doing nothing, is that right?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, no. The government is doing a great deal here. Let’s be clear about this but we’re focusing on doing things which make sense. It’s about supporting can-do businesses, can-do capitalism, as the Prime Minister has put it, not don’t-do government. So we’re investing heavily in low-emissions technologies - $21 billion. We’re expecting that to bring forward 100 billion or more of total investment in research and development, early stage deployment. That’s how you do it because then the private sector can get on and get the job done. This is not about telling people what to do, it’s about giving them the choices and they’ll make those choices, and that’s absolutely essential to our approach, in contrast to Labor, who takes a very different approach to this. They’re into don’t-do government. Let’s make it clear, Laura. That’s been their approach at the last election. Albo’s all over the shop now. He’s got no policy, no plans. Hasn’t even got a 2030 target. We are very clear on this – we’re backing private sector investors and business people with supporting government facilitation and investment, and that’s what will work.

LAURA JAYES: But have you told the Hunter Valley and Queensland that your own document says that coal will halve by 2050?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I don’t think anyone who’s working in our resources sector thinks that the resources sector, wherever you are – whether you’re in copper or iron ore or coal – will be the same in 30 years as it is today. It’s just these industries have evolved greatly in the last 30 years. I’ve personally seen that in my career pre-politics. You know, they’re always changing, Laura and with it we need to change. You know, we see enormous opportunity in clean hydrogen, clean ammonia, the export of that from Australia. It’ll be a premium product to places like Japan. That market’s already starting to unfold. We’re a big producer of hydrogen already today. Our iron ore markets will change. There’s no question about that because we’ll see a reduction in emissions and steel making in the coming years with new technologies. We understand what they’re likely to be, and we have to adopt to it. So that’s what you do. That’s what countries do. It’s what businesses do. And that’s what our plan is all about.

LAURA JAYES: Okay, can-do capitalism and don’t-do governments. Now, you signed up to a high 2030 target by ’22. That was in the Glasgow statement, wasn’t it? Now, you seem to be walking away from it. We have an election within six months. Isn’t this the opportunity to take a new target for 2030 or 2035 to the Australian people?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Can I just push back on what you said there Laura, because it’s not correct. What we signed up to was a communique which had covered a broad range after things – fantastic outcomes on transparency and reporting, fantastic outcomes on high integrity credits and offsets across the world. They are wonderful things we’ve been pushing for many years and I personally have been pushing for many, many years but what we also signed up to was a request to increase aspirations for 2030 over time.

LAURA JAYES: A request?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Recognising national circumstances. Now, I’ll make two points about that: number one, we are one of the biggest exporters of energy products in the world. That’s a pretty unique circumstance, and we’ll adapt to that. The second is that we put out every year now an updated projection on what we expect to achieve by 2030. And we did this prior to 2020 as well. We’ve always improved on that. Those projections have been bankable. Let’s be clear. So we’ll keep doing that. It works. It’s one of the most transparent, accountable processes in the world, Laura and this is why we pushed so hard on transparency, because we’re a world leader on it. That’s our process. We set the target at the beginning of the decade. We then hold that and beat it. And we put out projections each year, and we’ll put out a projection next year and update our nationally determined contribution to reflect that.

LAURA JAYES: Let’s talk about this modelling that was released on Friday as well. This modelling also assumes that by 2050 90 per cent of our vehicles will be electric. Are these the same vehicles that Morrison said last election wouldn’t tow your boat or trailer?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, let’s be clear, Laura: what we were criticising at the last election, apart from the fact that Bill Shorten didn’t understand what policies were and didn’t have a clue about how charging worked – what we were criticising was a policy from Labor to target 50 per cent electric vehicles sales by 2030 and to put in place an emissions standard of 105 grams per kilometre, which would force up the price of a typical vehicle by $5,000, according to The Centre for Independent Economics. Now that’s a tax on cars. Let’s be clear. That’s exactly what it was. We were criticising it, and we will continue to criticise that policy. If Labor rolls it out again, we’ll say exactly the same thing this time around – that it is a policy that forces up the price of a car. This is don’t-do government. This is saying, “We don’t want you to buy that kind of car so we’re going to force the price of it up. We want you to buy this kind of car.” That’s don’t-do government. We believe in can-do businesses, can-do Australians who will buy low-emissions vehicles and are doing so right now at a rapid rate. Hybrid vehicles, we’ve seen phenomenal uptake of hybrid vehicles. Toyota were telling me last week 70 per cent of their vehicle sales in the coming years they’re expecting to be hybrids.

LAURA JAYES: Sure, yes.

ANGUS TAYLOR: You know, Australians are doing it and we expect them to continue to because it’s good for them. I’m confident that vehicle manufacturers will continue to provide vehicles that bring down emissions over time and are chosen by Australians because it’s good for them.

LAURA JAYES: Well, Mr Morrison also said over the weekend that corporate Australia needs to do more to act on climate change and stop this rent-seeking attitude. It wasn’t that long ago that companies that did act were accused of virtue signalling. So there’s quite a shift there.

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, let’s be clear about this: companies that say they’re going to do lots and then do nothing is where the criticism has been. That’s virtue signalling.

LAURA JAYES: Like who?

ANGUS TAYLOR: There is a difference, look, take lots of companies – you can go down through the list and look at the media reports. I’m not going to go through all that. The real question, though, is this - are those companies that have ambition getting on and doing the job in a sensible way which is good for them, good for their shareholders and good for their customers, good for Australia? And that’s what we want to see. So now we are – the good news is we are seeing this, Laura. The co-investment we’re seeing alongside our investments through Arena and through the CFC and direct from the government, you know, we’re working on the hydrogen hubs now, you know, projects like the Latrobe Valley hydrogen energy supply chain where we’ve put in $50 million. We’re seeing a total of $500 million of investment in that project to send hydrogen up to Japan. Now that’s the kind of project we want to see the private sector investing in alongside government in many cases, in some cases not. That’s the kind of can-do capitalism you talked about that is for real. It’s actually solving real problems. It’s providing customers what they want. That’s what we want to see.

LAURA JAYES: Well, we’ve got the new slogan for the next election campaign, that’s pretty clear. Now, just on the modelling, why did you release it at 3pm on Friday? Everyone knows that if you don’t want something in the headlines that’s the time to drop it out.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Come on, Laura. We announced this in a press conference, the Prime Minister and I, in front of all Australians, and you got to see that. I assume you were probably watching that – I’m not sure but, look, let’s contrast with the alternative. Albo has no 2050 plan, no 2030 target, no 2030 plan –

LAURA JAYES: Well, he says he’ll have one by the end of the year.

ANGUS TAYLOR: And he’s now saying he’s going to drop out his plans on Christmas Eve. I mean, come on. Really?

LAURA JAYES: Did he say Christmas Eve? I think he said by the end of the year.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, you know. The contrast here is Australia has a 2050 target and a 2050 plan.


ANGUS TAYLOR: There are very few countries in the world who are even close to that, Laura. Now, people can criticise it and say they want to see a lot more don’t-do government, shut things, it’s not a good enough plan because we’re not shutting things. That’s not our way. We’re talking – the whole plan is focused on getting the cost of low-emissions technologies down. We’ve laid it out. You can get it on the internet. It’s all there. It’s all transparent. If you want to criticise it, knock yourself out but I tell you what – this is a plan that will bring down emissions in Australia and will support bringing down emissions around the world because it’s about customers choosing low-emissions technologies because it works for them. That’s how we’re going to do this. That’s how the world’s going to do it and we’ve laid out the clearest plan, clearest articulation, of how to do that of any country in the world.

LAURA JAYES: Okay. We are right out of time. Angus Taylor, thanks so much. We’ll be speaking to you a lot. We’ve got the election campaign starting early, it would seem. Thanks, speak soon.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Laura.

LAURA JAYES: There you go – can-do capitalism and don’t-do governments.