Interview with Scott Emerson, 4BC

Scott Emerson
Government support for the refining sector

SCOTT EMERSON: Now, our fuel sector has been feeling the pressure and hopefully there'll be some ease after the Government today announces further support to keep our local oil refineries going. It's all part of the Federal Government's bid to support jobs, protect long term fuel security and maintain affordable fuel. I'm pleased to say that the Minister for Energy and Emissions Angus Taylor is joining us on the show this aft - I almost said this afternoon there again - this morning on Summer Breakfast. Angus Taylor, welcome to Summer Breakfast on 4BC.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me, Scott.

SCOTT EMERSON: I'm getting used to this Summer Breakfast, first day on after doing the Drive for a couple of months there, so I am adjusting. But Angus Taylor, why is it important for us to support these oil refineries?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well look, at the top of the list is fuel security and jobs. It's absolutely crucial that we have a secure supply of fuel in this country, whether you're a farmer trying to get your harvest off, if you're a truckie that's got to move a container between our capital cities. Our essential services rely on having access to fuel, and that means having access to fuel in situations where there is a threat to our fuel supply. That means having either stocks, significant stocks that are available when they're needed, or having fuel refineries that can continually produce that fuel, preferably from our own crude oil in places like Bass Strait and the Cooper Basin. Today's announcement is all about giving our refineries the best possible chance of prospering in what's been a very tough environment with COVID. We've seen their margins crunched all around the world, and we've also seen a significant reduction in their offtake because there's obviously less use of fuel, particularly aviation gas and petrol, less so diesel, which has held on, but that's made it a very, very challenging environment for our refineries, and this is all about making sure we give them every chance of success.

SCOTT EMERSON: Now, I'm talking to the Energy and Emissions Minister Angus Taylor. So Minister, what are you actually announcing then? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: So we’ll do this, what we're calling a production payment that will start from 1 January that recognises the role those refineries play in fuel security. It's a payment that will be equal to at least a cent a litre. They work on pretty slim margins, so this is a significant increase to the margins that they'll be able to attract. That, in turn, will give them every chance of being able to prosper into the future.

SCOTT EMERSON: How important is fuel security for Australia? This has been an issue that has rumbled along for the last couple of years. Are we getting more secure in an uncertain world without fuel?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yes, we are, because of these initiatives. And look, it's been challenging because we've seen Bass Strait, which has been the source of much of our local fuel, running down and we haven't seen the replacement of that. We will in the future, the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory is offering great prospects for having local crude oil supplies. But we've also seen the loss of refineries. Back in 2012 we had two refineries announce their closures before we got into government, and that's been a really challenging addition to the broader challenges of fuel security. So, this is all about making sure we have either the stocks or the refineries to be able to put ourselves in a position, where in the worst case scenario that we can't import fuel, we still have access to the fuel we need.

SCOTT EMERSON: And just on the issue of carbon reduction, where is the Government going now with that at the moment? We saw that conference at the weekend, the Prime Minister didn't get to speak as part of that. Where do we stand in the world, especially with Joe Biden becoming the US president in about a month's time?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, unlike the United States, we're party to the Paris Agreement. We smashed our targets. Our 2020 target, the Kyoto agreement came to a close on 30 June this year. We beat our targets by almost a year's worth of emissions. There's very few countries in the world that have achieved that. As we look forward to 2030 - we've just put out data saying we're going to achieve those targets again. We're doing very well but we're doing it in a way different from some countries - we don't tell people what kind of car to drive or what kind of factory to build. Instead, we encourage technologies that people choose to use to bring down emissions and we've seen that happening at a rapid rate. And household solar is a good example of this, the cost of that's come down dramatically in recent years. Lots of your listeners will have solar cells on their roofs. That's playing the biggest role over the next 10 years, and in recent years indeed, in bringing down emissions. That's technology that's come of age. So that's how we're doing it. It doesn't need to be putting people out of jobs. It doesn't need to be raising the price of electricity. Indeed, it's been coming down, and we want to see it come down further. That's the way to do it. That's our approach, it is distinctively an Australian approach, and it is working and it will continue to work.

SCOTT EMERSON: But will that be more challenging approach with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris taking the Oval Office on January the 20th?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well Scott, we don't take orders on how we run this country from another country, or from the United Nations, or anywhere else. We run this country based on what's in the interests of Australians. We're accountable for Australians, we were voted in by Australians and we'll run the country for Australia. That's how we look at it. And that means we'll do this in our way. It's working and it will continue to work. I'm very confident of that. But it must be done in a way that recognises Australia's crucial export industry, industries like beef and dairy that many would like to see gone. I mean that's the truth of it. There are many who are arguing that those sorts of industries shouldn't exist because of the methane emissions of our cattle. Now, that's not the way we approach it. We approach this in a sensible, pragmatic, balanced way, which gets the outcomes but serves the interests of Australia first and foremost.

SCOTT EMERSON: I fully appreciate, Minister, we don't take orders from the US, but clearly the United States remains a very important strategic ally for us. Won't it be very difficult if you've got someone like Joe Biden or Kamala Harris in the Oval Office with very much dynamically opposed opinions on, in terms of emissions?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, again, you know, the United States hasn't been a party to the Paris agreement. We welcome them to the Paris agreement. That's a good thing. And I remind you that the United States didn't speak at this summit on the weekend either. But we will work closely with them as we always have. They're an important strategic ally in this region. We have a very good relationship with them. Joe Biden has strongly backed in important technologies - backing the gas industry for instance - he comes from Pennsylvania, where the fastest growth of gas has been in the United States. He has backed in carbon capture and storage, which we see is an important technology. He said he'll double down on that. There is much to work with on this with the United States, and we look forward to working with them as the new president steps into place.

SCOTT EMERSON: Alright, Angus Taylor and just finally, Christmas is only less than two weeks away now. What are you planning for Christmas?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I'm going to have Christmas with my family at home, which will be lovely. We've got the extended family joining us. And after what's been a long year, bushfires last Christmas in my region, very significant bushfires in my region, I'm looking forward to having a much quieter Christmas and look forward to a new year which I certainly hope and I think all Australians hope won't be as challenging as this year has been.

SCOTT EMERSON: Alright then. Best wishes for over Christmas. And Angus Taylor, thank you for joining us on 4BC Summer Breakfast. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Good on you. Thanks Scott. 

Media contact:

Minister Taylor's office: 02 6277 7120