Doorstop – Canberra – Tuesday, 12 September 2017


SUBJECT/S: Turnbull’s energy chaos, electricity price rising under Libs, gas trigger, Clean Energy Target.

MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: The last 24 hours really have exemplified the complete chaos that characterises energy policy under this Government. Up until the week before last Turnbull’s energy plan for the nation was to use taxpayer funds to build new coal-fired power stations. Then last week he changed the energy plan to extend the life of an unreliable 50 year old coal-fired power station in New South Wales. Today, those plans lie in tatters.

In the meantime, Australia’s energy crisis is driving power bills for households and businesses up, and up, and up. Australians well remember that the Liberal Party in 2013 promised Australian households that they would see a cut in their energy bills of $550. Instead what an average Sydney household has seen since 2013 is not a cut of $550 but an increase of almost $1000. Businesses across Australia are receiving 70, 80, 90 even 100 per cent increases in their electricity quotes for new contracts; threatening the viability of many thousands of Australian jobs.

Australia’s energy system is spiralling out of control under this Government. All we get from Malcolm Turnbull are these thought bubbles, personal abuse, flights of fancy and attacks on renewable energy. It is time for this Government, three months after receiving the Finkel Report, to follow the advice of every stakeholder in this area – indeed most recently the Liberal Leader from South Australia – and implement a Clean Energy Target; to put downward pressure on prices and start new investment to build the 21st century electricity system that Australia needs.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: We’ve got a crisis on our hands right now. The Libs promised before the 2013 election they would cut household electricity bills by $550 a year. The fact is, in Sydney, electricity bills for the average household are now almost $1000 dearer. Malcolm Turnbull talks a big game, he promises to take steps to make energy bills more affordable but if he was serious about that he would pull the gas trigger today.

It is not just households that are struggling it is businesses as well. There are lots of businesses out there that are still getting contract offers for gas which are in the order of $15, $16, $17, $18 a gigajoule, unaffordable. If that means Australian businesses choose not to invest, shut down, move overseas, cut their staff – then that is on Malcolm Turnbull’s head because he could pull the gas trigger today. We had to drag Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals kicking and screaming to do anything on this. They finally announced they would do something in April this year. They put the trigger mechanism in place in July. They could have pulled the trigger on the 1st of September. It is now the 12th of September and Australian businesses are still waiting and they are still receiving contract offers that are unaffordable. So Malcolm Turnbull, if you are serious about doing something about energy prices then pull your finger out and pull the gas trigger today. 

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the suggestion that AGL has 90-days to get its plan to Government, effectively gives the Government 90-days to present its plan to industry for a Clean Energy Target or whatever it may be called?   

BUTLER: Remember it is three months since Alan Finkel and his panel delivered their report on electricity policy to the Government. In that report the Chief Scientist said there was an “urgent need for a clear and early decision”. Those were the Chief Scientist word, “an urgent need for a clear and early decision” on a Clean Energy Target. We’ve just seen obfuscation and distraction from this Government. So I hope it doesn’t take 90 days for Malcolm Turnbull to take on the right-wing of his Party Room and deliver Australians the level of certainty they need, to see power bills start to come down and new generation built to replace the 50 year old power stations that inevitably are going to close in coming years. So I hope it doesn’t take 90 days. He’s got to do it sooner rather than later. Even the Liberal Leader in South Australia only this morning has said that he supports a Clean Energy Target. Every stakeholder is just calling on this Government to deliver some certainty to the chaos that characterises energy policy under Malcolm Turnbull

JOURNALIST: Sorry if you covered this earlier, it seems that AGL’s plans possibly include building a gas plant on the site where Liddell is now but to do that they need access to gas that the NSW Government won’t let them explore for or extract. Do you think that it is actually a reality that they could get a new gas plant happening?

BUTLER: I’m sure AGL or any other energy company in this country won’t put in place an electricity investment plan lightly without thinking about their access to fuel. I might ask Jason to add to these remarks. But we’ll wait and see what AGL’s plans are going to be. There are plans by other major energy companies to make sure that there is the investment coming forward in Australia’s energy system to guarantee reliable and affordable supply of electricity. It would be good if the Federal Government got behind the industry to see power bills start to come down finally. They have skyrocketed under this Government. Increases of almost $1000 for the average Sydney household and those increases will just keep coming until the Government gets control of energy policy.

CLARE: The only thing I’d add there is firstly, we’ve got to make sure that Australian businesses have got access to the gas they need at an affordable price. That’s why we’re saying to Malcolm Turnbull today, pull the trigger. Stop mucking around. Pull the trigger today. The second thing is in making sure that we’ve got more access to gas for generation purposes. It’s not good enough for Malcolm Turnbull just to criticise and harass Labor States and Labor Premiers. If it’s good enough for the goose it’s good enough for the gander. He should pick up the phone and talk to Gladys Berejiklian as well. Apparently they’re great friends. You never hear anything from Malcolm Turnbull about what the Berejiklian Government should be doing to make sure that there’s more access to more gas to give us the electricity and the gas that we need to power Australia.