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Interview with Mark Levy, 2GB Drive

24 June 2020

Interviewer: 
Mark Levy

Subject: Energy policy

E&OE

MARK LEVY: Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has addressed the National Press Club today. In the words of one report, he used the speech to set out his guiding principles for an agreement to end more than a decade of political warfare on climate and energy policy. In what was described as a major overture to the Federal Government, Mr Albanese has sent a letter to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling for a bipartisan approach to energy policy. Under this bipartisan approach, both the Coalition and the ALP will be able to set their own emissions reduction targets. He says it's a genuine offer to work together in the national interest. Mr Albanese says the Government's Technology Roadmap, which highlighted renewable generation options to boost the economy, slash bills and reduce emissions, was largely consistent with past Labor policy and expert advice. He says it makes the case that renewable energy will be at the centre of Australia's energy and industrial future, a view that has been advocated by myself and my party for many years. Angus Taylor is the Federal Energy Minister. I'm pleased to say he's with me now. Minister, good afternoon.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me.

MARK LEVY: Not a problem. In broad terms, what did you make of the Opposition Leader's speech this afternoon?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well it's not clear. But what is clear is what we’re doing, Mark, and that's what I can tell you, is we're focused on making sure we've got jobs as we come out of COVID-19. We're absolutely focused on making sure we’ve got affordable, reliable power in this country - electricity and gas. And if Labor wants to align with what we're doing to achieve that, then good on them. But our focus is clear. We won't be veering. It is going to be a relentless focus on those things that really matter to Australians: jobs, affordability, cost of living, cost of doing business.

MARK LEVY: Without wishing to sound uncharitable, I mean, do you want or need to hold hands with Labor in terms of energy policy though, Minister? Because you're in government, they want to get into government, and in the past, both sides have been poles apart in terms of policy, particularly in relation to coal.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, what I want to do is achieve the outcomes. What we as a Government want to do is achieve the outcomes. I mean, our energy policy is about outcomes. It's about affordability, reliability and of course jobs. And if they want to come and help to achieve those outcomes, good on them. That's their call. But we're not going to veer course on this because at a time like this, that relentless focus is incredibly important. That means more supply coming into the electricity market, more gas to make sure we've got that downward pressure on prices, affordability for households, we've put in place price caps, making sure manufacturing in this country has a future and high energy prices have been an issue in the past. So all of those things are our focus, and at the end of the day, the choice is Labor’s as to whether they want to get behind those goals.

MARK LEVY: You may remember back in February, Minister, for example, Mr Albanese said: ‘I don't think there's a place for coal-fired power plants in Australia, full stop'. He was then asked if a future Labor government would allow new coal projects and he said: ‘You might as well ask me if I support unicorns'. So, you can't get much clearer than that, can you?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well they're divided on all of this. You’ve got the Otis Group - Joel Fitzgibbon on one side and you’ve got Mark Butler on the other side. We've seen that in carbon capture and storage, one of the technologies that’s emerging to support gas, coal and other technologies. They can't make it out if they're Arthur or Martha on this. One day, Mark Butler says it's a pipe dream and the next day Joel Fitzgibbon says he backs it. So, their attitude towards coal is the same. We're just going to stay focused and that's what the Australian people want and that's what they deserve.

MARK LEVY: I need to ask you, Mr Albanese said today that Labor is prepared to support carbon capture and storage projects but only if the government coughs up and pays for it. Is that going to happen?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we're going to continue to focus on carbon capture and storage. I mean, we've recently done a review of our Emissions Reduction Fund and what it said very clearly is we should be looking at carbon capture and storage and it should be part of the mix. And the answer here is a balance. It’s a balance of fuel sources, it's a balance of technologies, both new and old. That's how we're going to get those outcomes that I've been talking about.

MARK LEVY: Alright. The other thing he touched on was nuclear power. He said that Labor will never back nuclear power. How does that sit with you as the Energy Minister of Australia?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, obviously, the starting point is we've got a moratorium and there's no plan to change that, but the Technology Investment Roadmap includes in it small modular reactors. They’re an emerging technology around the world. Three have been built in the developing world. We're going to see them built in the developed world in the coming years and we're going to be watching that very closely.

MARK LEVY: It's obviously a strange one because this country has so much uranium. We send it to other countries around the world to power their grids but we don't seem to be using it to our full advantage. So a lot of my listeners on this network say why is nuclear power such a taboo subject? I know there's the moratorium but it's something we definitely need to look at, surely?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well the broader point I'd make, Mark, is that we need a balance of different fuel sources and technologies, and we need a lot of horses in this race if we're going to have affordability, if we're going to have ongoing reliability, job creation in manufacturing we need that broad range of fuel sources and technologies. And that's the focus of our policy. It has been for some time. It will continue to be. Labor want to rule things in and rule things out. It changes from day to day. It changes depending on who you ask. Well, our focus is clear.

MARK LEVY:  Alright. Fantastic. Thanks for joining us Minister. I thought we’d get your response to the speech this afternoon. We’ll chat soon.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks. Appreciate it.

ENDS