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Interview with Leigh Sales, ABC 7.30

2 March 2020

Leigh Sales

Subject: Energy policy, Alinta Energy, coal, emissions targets


LEIGH SALES:  The Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor joined me earlier from Canberra. Minister, thanks for your time.

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Thanks for having me Leigh.

LEIGH SALES:  If I can start with our story on Alinta Energy, should Australia be allowing major infrastructure assets like energy companies to be owned by foreign interests?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Well, Leigh, all companies that participate in Australia need to comply with Australian law. Our foreign investment laws need to get the balance right between encouraging investment in Australia and the national interest, but it is crucial they comply with the law and that includes data breach laws, data privacy laws, as well as broader foreign investment requirements. I understand in this particular case that Treasury is enforcing remedial actions, that that's taking place right now and those remedial actions will need to be in place by the end of this year.

LEIGH SALES:  On energy policy, is the Federal Government going to pay to keep the Liddell power station open, the one that AGL wants to close in 2023?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  I think everyone is getting a bit ahead of themselves here with some speculative reporting, Leigh. We've been very clear that the way to get prices down, to ensure that Australians have affordable, reliable energy and industry in Australia continues to prosper and be successful into the future is-

LEIGH SALES:  I noticed you're not answering the question.

ANGUS TAYLOR:  To get more supply into the market, well more supply into the market and avoid supply leaving.

LEIGH SALES:  Are you going to pay to keep the Liddell power station open?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  I'm not going to speculate on the outcomes of the Liddell Taskforce - I haven't received the final report yet - but what I will say is that it is crucial that as these power stations get older, we have either life-extension or replacement and that is to ensure that we have downward pressure on prices.

LEIGH SALES:  What do you think is the timeframe for Australia to transition away from coal?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Well, I mean, it is not about coal, it is about emissions. At the end of the day, what we need to do here is we need to play our part in helping to reduce global emissions. ON our own we won’t solve this problem.

LEIGH SALES:  I'm actually not asking about emissions, I just want to ask about coal because AGL says coal should be done in about 50 years. You look at mining companies like South32, BHP and Rio Tinto, they are getting away from coal now. I'm just asking you as a relevant minister, what do you think is the timeframe in which Australia is going to be getting away from coal?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  I understand you're asking that question, but the point I'm making to you is it's about emissions and emissions come from much more than coal and they come from much more than the electricity sector.

LEIGH SALES:  But I'm asking about coal.

ANGUS TAYLOR:  I know you are and my point is there's many ways to reduce emissions - that's my point. And so what we are focused on is getting to our targets - 2020 targets we'll beat easily, 2030 targets and driving emissions beyond that.

LEIGH SALES:  On your point that 2030 targets you'll meet easily, what's your source for that?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  The government department. I mean, we are on track already-

LEIGH SALES:  But exactly which government department is saying that? Because I've got some figures from various government departments.

ANGUS TAYLOR:  My Government Department. We're already ahead, Leigh, and we are 13.1 per cent down now. We have got a plan laid out to the last tonne as to how we are going to reach our emissions targets. We'll beat our 2020 targets by about 411 million tonnes. That’s almost a year's worth of emissions that we'll beat our 2020 targets by. And as I say, Climate Solutions Fund -

LEIGH SALES:  But if you have a look - sorry to interrupt - some of the figures that I'm looking at, the Department of Environment currently has Australian emissions at 16 per cent below 2005 levels. We have to add 10-12 per cent to that in the next 10 years to meet the current target. If you look at emissions since September 2009 you'll see that they fall rapidly until 2013 at which point the trend is fairly flat. In the past year, emissions have fallen by less than a third of 1 per cent. The source for that is the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. I'm just wondering why you're so confident that we are going to meet these 2030 targets?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Exactly that same report – so if you look at that report, you’ll see the way we're measured on our targets under the Paris Agreement, as we were in the Kyoto agreement, is a carbon budget. It’s about the total amount you emit over a time period. That time period will be from 2020, from this year, through to 2030. And that same report shows that we're expected to beat our targets by about 16 million tonnes. But the important point I'd make to your viewers, Leigh, is that we seek to not just meet our targets but beat them, and every year since we've been in Government we've improved our position on our carbon budgets and we'll seek to do that every year between now and 2030. Now when we already have a plan to beat that carbon budget by 16 million tonnes with 10 years to go, and I can tell you we will be working night and day to continue to drive down those emissions without shedding jobs and without hurting the economy, I'm confident that we'll continue to improve our position over the course of the next decade.

LEIGH SALES:  Do you still maintain that the falsified document that your office distributed about the Sydney City Council's travel bill came from its own website?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Yes. My statement on this was clear from the start. And, I'd add to that, Leigh-

LEIGH SALES:  Sorry, can I just, sorry - go ahead. Sorry.

ANGUS TAYLOR:  I'd add to that - this has been considered and closed by two independent police forces. We had the AFP Commissioner today saying: “The matter is finalised, full stop”.

LEIGH SALES:  How do you explain the inconsistency between your story and the metadata produced by the Sydney City Council showing that the document as distributed never appeared on their website?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Well, that’s a matter for them. I can tell you though what our information was at the time and I've been very clear about that. I made statements about it at the time-

LEIGH SALES:  But aren't you bothered? Because you have had a lot of trouble because of this and I'm just wondering aren't you curious yourself as to what that inconsistency is?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Leigh, we've had two independent police forces look at this. They've had access to all of that information. I've cooperated with them at each stage. They have both considered and closed this matter. As I said, the AFP Commissioner today said that the matter is finalised, full stop. My focus now is on the important issues that we've been talking about in this interview, those policy issues that really matter for Australians.

LEIGH SALES:  But the New South Wales Police referred the matter to the AFP. The AFP dropped its investigation. Today the Commissioner told a Senate Estimates Committee that the police did not interview the Sydney Lord Mayor and they also didn't interview you. Given that what happened damaged your reputation, it brought the Government into disrepute, you had to apologise over it - you must be disappointed at the lack of a thorough investigation?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Leigh, two police forces have looked at this. It's been pretty thorough. It went over months as you.

LEIGH SALES:  They didn't interview you. They didn’t interview the Lord Mayor.

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Well, that was a choice that they made. It's very clear what the position is here. The Commissioner has been very clear on it. He was very clear - it's been finalised and the matter is closed, full stop. I'm getting on with my job. And you know that’s what Australians expect me to do – affordable, reliable energy, getting emissions down. These are hugely important issues.

LEIGH SALES:  This goes to the heart of what Australians want you to do because you had to apologise for the circulation of false information. That means, it's been demonstrated that the public can't necessarily trust information that comes out of your office. But you don't seem to feel the need to get to the bottom of exactly what occurred. How can the public now trust any information that comes out of your office?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  It's very clear. Two police forces had a look at this. I think that's about as independent as you can get, Leigh. I stand by the positions both of them took. And so I’m getting on with it.

LEIGH SALES:  But how can it be a thorough look?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Now it is true, it is true that there are some questioning, some questioning the independence of those police forces.

LEIGH SALES:  It's not about the independence.

ANGUS TAYLOR:  There's real questions that raises. This went for many months. And now I'm getting on with it because those matters are both finalised and closed as we've heard today from the Police Commissioner.

LEIGH SALES:  I keep coming back to this - why aren't you worried about it? You are the person who is the face of it. You are at the front-line of it. Why aren't you worried about it?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Because I've made clear statement on it. I absolutely stand by that statement. Two police forces have looked at it. The matter is closed. Now it's time to get on with it, Leigh, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. Look, I'm absolutely delighted to be here on 7.30 talking to you about those crucial issues. How we make sure that we do bring emissions down. This is crucial for Australia. It's crucial for the world. That's my job, and I'm absolutely delighted to continue to work hard on those all important issues.

LEIGH SALES:  Minister, thank you very much for joining us this evening.

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Thank you for having me.