Transcript: Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News Adelaide, South Australia
Subjects: ACCC report into electricity and energy; security at infrastructure sites; Barnaby Joyce
Joining me on the program now, live from Adelaide, is the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.
A lot to talk about and one of the things that Tony Abbott said as well from Washington overnight, in response to the competition watchdog report into the electricity sector, is that he still reiterates his call for Australia to get out of the Paris deal and we need to remove our focus on emissions.
What’s your take on where things are at after that competition watchdog report and also Tony Abbott’s intervention on that too?
Well look, certainly the Paris agreements need to be adhered to because we need to play our part. Even though our emissions for Australia’s point of view are very slight, we all need to play our part.
Tony Abbott, when he was prime minister, the government signed up to those arrangements. We’re certainly more than meeting those emissions targets. So that’s a good thing.
But as far as the ACCC report is concerned, that’s certainly been welcomed by the government. It should be welcomed indeed by people all across Australia because we need to push downward pressure on power prices.
And the government will be able to do just that thanks to that ACCC report. We’ll look at the recommendations and carefully consider them as a government, as a responsible government does.
I’m actually almost delighted by the fact that Mark Butler, the resources minister for Labor, or shadow minister for Labor, is pouring scorn on it because that probably means that it’s a good thing. I mean, he’s lost his seat. He’s lost the presidency of the ALP. He comes from a state where he described a blackout as a hiccup.
The fact is we are the party – the Liberals and Nationals – for lower energy costs, cheaper power bills, reliable affordable power.
Do you see the ACCC recommendation for underwriting firmed energy supply, did you see that as also a green light for underwriting new coal-fired power plants?
Well indeed, the ACCC has said where possible and where appropriate, the government should look to helping and supporting those that ability to buy, pay for, support baseload power. And that’s got to be seen as a good thing.
Also, with the offtake arrangements as far as pricing is concerned, there was a recommendation in there that the government should also support that. So, there’s some good measures in there. The ACCC has done a lot of work.
We commissioned this report in March last year. The ACCC has done a lot of work. A 400 page report, more than 50 recommendations and the recommendations – if followed and closely adhered with the National Energy Guarantee that Josh Frydenberg is going to work with the states on – that can provide cheaper, reliable, more reliable, more affordable power.
This is a good thing. The ACCC has done its work. The government will now do its work.
But is it definitely coal or could it be gas or other dispatchable power? It’s not necessarily coal, is it?
Well, we’re technology agnostic. The ACCC has suggested it’s technology agnostic. Could be coal, could be gas. Whatever it is though, the fact is the ACCC says that it’s there.
The government should and could support it where appropriate. That gives the government the incentive and the appropriate measures to be able to now say, well look, we need to do further work on this. Careful consideration, as a sensible government would do.
We don’t want to deindustrialise Australia. We want to make sure that there’s cheaper power for business, for households in particular. That, backed up with the gas reservation that Malcolm Turnbull has already put in, that backed up with Snowy Hydro 2.0 which is already creating jobs in Tumut and Cabramarra and Talbingo, and confidence in the sector, this is going to provide the incentive for investors to get on board.
Does it give the incentive as well for the government now to maintain the embrace of coal, as some of your colleagues obviously do have that view?
Well, it does. And the fact is Bill Shorten says one thing when he’s campaigning in Mackay, says another thing when he campaigning in Melbourne. He doesn’t know which side of the fence he wants to straddle. But he’s anti-Labor are anti-coal.
The questions about whether coal should be part of the mix should be directed to the Labor Party and indeed, well, we know where the Greens stand and the Labor Party are always generally in bed with the Greens anyway.
But the Liberals and Nationals support coal. We support those high-vis vest wearers in Mackay, in Gladstone, in North Queensland and Central Queensland, and indeed in Lithgow, wherever they might be. We support jobs, we support cheaper power and that’s what we’re doing.
The ACCC has provided the document. They’ve put the work in. More than 50 recommendations, 400 pages, telling the government that it can, where possible and where appropriate, support baseload power, more baseload power, and support pricing measures to give confidence to the investors in the future.
Just finally on this issue, the Prime Minister says that the government is agnostic when it comes to energy supply, yet you don’t …
Indeed and he’s right.
… seem agnostic about it when it comes to the issue of coal. You say, you’ve said this morning that it’s a green light for the government to maintain.
Well, coal has to be part of the mix. Coal can be part of the mix, coal should be part of the mix. There are thousands of jobs, particularly throughout Queensland, in the coal industry. We’ve got plenty of it. We’re exporting plenty of it. Why don’t we use more of it for our own domestic energy power needs?
And this report, the ACCC report, gives the confidence in the sector to be able to say to investors you can invest in coal, you can invest in any technology and there’s the certainly for the future for just that.
Just finally on a couple of other issues, I want to ask you about the infrastructure report and also Barnaby Joyce. But the act this week on critical infrastructure that enables the Home Affairs Minister the capacity to demand greater security measures be taken at 165 facilities – gas works, water facilities, ports, power plants. Can you elaborate on that for us?
Well look, these sorts of recommendations aren’t made lightly and we operate in the best interests of the national interest and indeed our security measures. The best thing that we can do, the most important thing that we can do is keep Australians safe.
The other thing that we’re doing at the moment is we’re rolling out $75 billion of infrastructure over a 10 year investment pipeline to make sure that we have the necessary infrastructure in place and to make sure we have the necessary security measures around any of our infrastructure measures, any of our airports.
We’re doing the right thing by Australians. We’re doing the right thing to ease congestion. We’re doing the right thing to get Australians home sooner and safer from their work and to their destinations.
And in terms of these interventions, it would be only where the facility or the operator wouldn’t undertake the security measures themselves, is that right?
Well, that’s part of it, yes. And we need to make sure that our facilities – when they’re certainly operating in the national interests – are secure. We need to make sure as a nation that we take every precaution and every step needed to ensure that facilities and infrastructure are safe. And we’re doing just that.
Finally on Barnaby Joyce, his expenses. He was in Canberra more last year but cleared by the auditor. Is that all from your perspective, is that a line under that messy episode for The Nats?
Well, the independent authority has cleared any suggestion that any of the travel was not necessary.
And the fact is you do have to spend a lot of time in Canberra as a Minister, particularly in the role that Barnaby was in. I understand that, I’m in that role now and I do spend a lot of nights in Canberra during those weeks which are not parliamentary sitting weeks.
But the independent authority has cleared him and so nothing more to be seen or read into that now or going forward.
Deputy Prime Minister, we’re out of time. We’ll catch you soon. Thanks for that.
Thanks, Kieran. Okay.