Transcript: Doorstop, Brisbane 12 July 2018
Subjects: infrastructure investment in Queensland; ACCC report on energy and electricity; live sheep exports; Barnaby Joyce; assistance for drought-affected farmers
… in Brisbane and it’s fantastic to be in a city where there are so many cranes over the city. I can see wherever I go in Queensland developments in infrastructure, making sure that Queensland is very much a part of the $75 billion infrastructure pipeline of investment that the Turnbull Government is rolling out right across the nation.
And when it comes to the nation, there is perhaps no more important subject at the moment than energy costs, and the Liberal and Nationals remain committed to making sure that we have cheaper power bills.
Reliable affordable power, but making sure that we continue to put downward pressure on power bills, and that’s what we are going to do. That’s what we will continue to do.
I’m delighted that the ACCC has also made very good recommendations, more than 50 of them in fact, which the government will now certainly consider. And the investment that the ACCC has encouraged the Government to take and make as part of those recommendations in baseload power generation is to be very much part of those considerations.
I want people to be assured that the National Energy Guarantee discussions, which will take place within the COAG framework next month, are still very much on the table. Liberal and Nationals agree that we have to have that framework; we have to have that partnership with the states to make cheaper power bills possible, to make sure that we continue to put that downward pressure.
And there is a responsibility of the states to make sure that they are part of that process. The states and territories are very much part and parcel of this. I know and have every faith in Josh Frydenberg to bring about those discussions in a fruitful way and a productive way.
I’m delighted, though, as I say, that the ACCC has made those recommendations yesterday. They will help the Government’s agenda to making sure that we have lower power bills. And I look at what the comments are from the Opposition: first of all, we’ve got Bill Shorten who’s making comments, yet hasn’t even looked at the report, and then we’ve got Mark Butler talking about the fact that the report does not go far enough, or pouring condemnation on the report.
I mean, here is the bloke who said that the blackout situation in South Australia was a mere hiccup. Here is the bloke who, when small businesses were going to the wall because of the power outages and household couldn’t turn on the lights – or indeed hospitals were even placed at risk by the power shortages – he described it as a hiccup.
I mean, what we do need is lower power prices. That’s what the Liberal-Nationals stand for; that’s what Malcolm Turnbull and his Government stands for.
We will work very much closely with the ACCC recommendations. We will take these recommendations on board. It gives us the ability to be able to look to see what we can further, along with investors, to make sure that we have that reliable, affordable power in place and to make sure that you can guarantee that in the future if you want cheaper power bills, if you want dispatchable power, if you want reliable, affordable energy, then the only option are the Liberal-Nationals.
Do you think the recommendations in the ACCC report provide a way forward [indistinct] of the NEG, including within The Nationals?
The Nationals are on board with NEG, as we should be. The fact is, we need to go through this COAG process, we need to be able to work in close conjunction with the states, and I’m sure that Josh Frydenberg can do that.
And I know that the National Party – you know, you only have to look at the commentary around what the Minister for Northern Australia and Resources Matthew Canavan has said in this space – we need to be able to make sure that the NEG can work and can have the ability to be able to work and get through that process on August 10 with Josh Frydenberg.
We need the NEG as part of the future framework. Just like we need to have a very, very close look at what we can do as part of these ACCC recommendations to ensure that the household energy costs, which are already coming down, they come down even further. To make sure that we have that dispatchable power. To make sure that the future is bright.
We do not want to deindustrialise Australia. We do not want to have people turning off their stoves and their heaters during winter, simply because they can’t afford their power bill.
Under the Liberal Nationals Government, people won’t have to have that option, but under the Labor Party, which has an ideological and unrealistic emissions target, you are going to pay more for your household bills. Businesses will be driven to the wall. That’s a fact.
Deputy Prime Minister, the NEG, yes or no? Does it need new government investment in coal?
Well, I’m a big supporter of coal, I know my party is a big supporter of coal, and I know Malcolm Turnbull has said that whilst we are technology-agnostic, the fact is coal is going to play a very important part of Australia’s future energy needs going forward.
So to be clear, you think yes the NEG package should have further investment in coal?
Well, I believe that the NEG package needs to be energy-agnostic. That’s what it is and there is the future for coal in the NEG process.
On live sheep exports, how is it that a company that was suspended from live sheep exports is then able to attempt to transfer it’s exports to another company?
Well, they’re able to do that because of the provisions under the laws as they were written.
And the fact is, we need the live sheep trade to continue. The fact is we need to continue to put animal welfare front and centre and we do that.
Under the export supply chain assurance scheme that we’ve got in place, animal welfare is placed front and centre.
The fact is that live sheep leaving Western Australia, or any other port, are subject to lower stocking density – 28 per cent lower stocking density – which means that there’s 38 per cent more room in the pens for the sheep leaving Australian ports from now on. There are cameras on those ships which are monitoring the welfare of those animals.
As well, there’s independent inspectors who will report on a daily basis back to the department and back to Australia as to the welfare of those sheep.
The fact is other countries do not have those sorts of animal welfare standards in place and if we give up the trade, the trade will be taken up by those countries for whom live animal welfare is not a priority and is not a consideration.
What do you think about Barnaby Joyce and Vikki Campion being cleared of misusing any taxpayer funds?
Well, that was done by the independent financing arm of the Parliament. They’ve looked at those travel claims and they’ve said that there’s nothing to report; there was nothing undue there and so to all intents and purposes, the matter between the member and the staff member was appropriate. The travel claims were appropriate.
Were you pleased to hear that outcome?
Well, it’s not a matter of being pleased or not pleased – the fact is the independent body that looks at these things said there was nothing untoward; nothing to report other than a parliamentarian taking a staff member on a trip to – as I am here – I’m in Brisbane, I’ve got two staff members with me and it’s all above board; it’s all as per the appropriate circumstances.
Fact is, you do need staff members when you’re visiting electorates and Barnaby, as a Minister at the time, needed to have staff members with him to be able to do his function as a Minister in the Government.
Well no, it’s entirely appropriate that – members and staff members have their travel claims looked at all the time and this was done in the appropriate fashion. The department has shown – the independent analysis has shown – that everything was appropriate, so therefore everything was appropriate. But the department looks at every member’s entitlements and every member’s travel claims. That’s just part of the process.
In your view, though, does he still have any other questions to answer in terms of the way public money was spent?
Well, I don’t believe so. Everything has thus far shown to be appropriate.
Do you agree with this call for the states, particularly New South Wales, to put more money into grain subsidies for farmers?
Well, I know that the New South Wales Government, for instance, has done some very good things in the drought space and we’ll continue to monitor it.
I spoke to the NSW Agriculture Minister Niall Blair yesterday about what we could both do as federal and state governments working in conjunction with one another, and we will continue to closely monitor the situation.
Of course, our farmers need the help that they require to get through this dry spell. Now, we can’t make it rain, but we can and we are providing the sorts of services and money that is required at this stage and has been asked for by both individual farmers and groups such as the NSW Farmers and the National Farmers’ Federation, and indeed AgForce, to help farmers get through this dry spell.
Certainly, I know from a federal point of view, we’ve extended the farm household assistance allowance from a three to a four-year period. We’ve also made sure that there is many millions of dollars on the table not just for rural financial counselling so that farmers can have a financial expert sitting around their kitchen table talking about them as to how they can manage their financial affairs. But also in the mental health space, we’ve put money on the table to help farmers get through this plight.
We will continue to monitor the situation, in conjunction with our state colleagues and do whatever we can where appropriate.
Well look, at the moment Barnaby is doing a good job as the Member for England. He will continue to do a good job as the Member for New England as all National Party members do, whether they’re on the front bench or whether they’re back benchers and local members looking after their electorates.
Like the Liberal Party, we make sure that we’re available for our local constituents because at the end of the day, without making sure that we’ve got those delivery packages under such things as the Building Better Regions Fund, under the community investment stream, and under the infrastructure stream of that project – which I know those sorts of projects are being rolled out this week – those projects, I have to remind viewers, will be all taken away if the Labor Party gets into power.
Such things as the mobile phone communications package, they’ll all go. Water infrastructure projects, no longer. Even the roads of strategic importance, where we’ve put $3.5 billion on the table - $1.5 billion dedicated to Northern Australia - all those sorts of projects will be very much in jeopardy if Labor ever takes power.
So, that is why – as far as regional electorates are concerned and regional representation is concerned – the National Party and the regional Liberals are those candidates which are putting forward the sorts of things which, you know, our communities expect, want, demand, and deserve.
And that’s why I’m very pleased that Brett Whiteley in Braddon is doing just that in conjunction with our regional Liberal friends and also Senator Steve Martin, the National Party senator in Tasmania, representing the interests of regional people, because when our regions are strong, so too is our nation.
Thank you very much.