Doorstop – Canberra – Wednesday, 13 September 2017


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

JASON CLARE: Malcolm Turnbull today should pull his finger out and pull the gas trigger. We’ve got record high energy prices here in Australia. Back in 2013 the Liberal Party promised that people would get a cut in their energy bills of $550. The truth is instead people are now paying an extra $1000 on their electricity bills.

Families are struggling in my electorate they’re struggling right around the country. Businesses are struggling as well. If you believe what Malcolm Turnbull is saying in the Parliament then just the threat of the gas trigger has fixed everything. The fact is that companies are still being offered contracts that are double what they were offered last year. You’ve got companies being offered contracts of $15, $16, $17, $18 a gigajoule. That’s not affordable. It risks companies making decisions to shut down or not invest or sack some of their staff. If that happens then it’s on Malcolm Turnbull’s head because he can pull the trigger today.

We had to drag the Government kicking and screaming to do anything on this. They finally announced that they would do this in April, they put the trigger capacity in place in July. It says in the regulation that they can do it from the first of September, it’s now the 13th. They could pull the trigger today and have a big impact on the record high electricity prices and energy prices that families are paying and that business are paying. So my message today to Malcolm Turnbull is pull your finger out and pull the trigger.

JOURNALIST: Are you still confident Labor can deliver on the fifty percent renewable target and that would bring down power bills?

CLARE: Well there are two things that are essential here. The first is pull the gas trigger – pull it now. That will have a very big immediate impact on the cost of electricity, on the cost of energy. The second is you have got to provide long term certainty for people to invest. I was talking to a big energy company last week. Not AGL but another very big company and I said: What is the biggest most important thing that can be done here? They said we need certainty to invest. The Government has given AGL 90 days to come back to it on Liddell. It’s had the Finkel Report for over 90 days and hasn’t provided any policy to the Parliament to debate, or for the industry to consider. We need bipartisanship here. Something that’s going to last longer than one parliamentary term.

To Bill Shorten’s credit he said we’re prepared to reach across the aisle and compromise. The clean energy target is not our preferred policy, we’ve said it’s the second best option, but it may be the only option that can get through this Parliament and that can get through both houses of this Parliament. So we’ve got to be practical. We’ve said we’d reach across the aisle and work with the Liberal Party but you can’t negotiate with an empty chair. Malcolm Turnbull’s problem is that he’s got a war in his own Party. A lot of this fight with the Labor Party in Parliament is a distraction from the fight that’s happening in the Liberal Party. You see in the papers today Tony Abbott is at it again. He’s good at wrecking things. He wrecked the Republic, he wrecked Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership the first time around, he’s trying to wreck the same sex marriage survey. He wants to wreck the Clean Energy Target and ultimately wreck Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership again.

Now remember the Malcolm Turnbull of old used to fight with Tony Abbott on these issues in the public interest. He crossed the floor. Here’s the irony about what we’re seeing in Parliament at the moment. He’s blaming Labor for everything that’s happening in energy. He voted with us. He crossed the floor. All those people behind him, he didn’t vote with them. He voted with the Labor Party six, seven, eight, nine years ago on this issue. That Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t exist anymore. He’s a hollow husk of what he used to be. He’s terrified that Tony Abbott is hunting him down and he’ll do whatever it takes to stay in his job which means caving in on every issue that the Right pushes whether it’s GST, negative gearing, or now this. Expect that when eventually they do come up with a policy it will be Tony Abbott’s policy. Malcolm Turnbull will be out there mouthing it like Milli Vanilli, lip syncing Tony Abbott’s words.

JOURNALIST: What about this redesigned Clean Energy Target, still giving companies money for producing coal, not giving them [inaudible].

CLARE: Two things. We’ve said coal is going to be a large part of the energy mix for a long time to come here in Australia and around the world. We’ve said here we’re willing to talk to the government. Industry need certainty and the people of Australia have had a gutful of the petty debate between the two parties on this. They want a policy that is going to last so we’ve said we’ll sit down with the government and we’re willing to compromise. But we can’t sit down and negotiate with the government on this until they work out what the hell they’re doing. It’s more obvious than ever before from what you see in the newspapers today that there’s a brawl going on within the Liberal Party. Tony Abbott’s trying to tear this apart and Malcolm Turnbull as a result doesn’t have anything to say on this, so he’s trying to pick fights with us and with everyone else.

JOURNALIST: Would you consider this new version?

CLARE: I can’t be any clearer. I’ve said we’re willing to sit down and work with the Government on this to try and find common ground.

JOURNALIST:  It looks like we could get a media reform package up in the Senate today. Did Labor deal itself out of the debate by standing firm on the [inaudible].

CLARE: I think we’ve been pretty consistent. We’ve said that we think diversity is important. We’ve made that point from the very start. We’ve said that most of the package we agree with. The 75 percent reach rule for example is a very good example of a rule that is redundant. The fact is you can get access to whatever you want online right across the country. The idea of a 75 percent reach rule for companies doesn’t make sense any more. But we believe there still is a place for the two out of three rule because we think diversity of media ownership is important.

Has the internet changed things? Yeah it certainly has but not fundamentally. If you do a quick Google and look at the top ten online news sites you’ll find that they’re still owned by the traditional media companies. Whether that’s Seven, Nine, Ten, Fairfax, News or the ABC. So things are changing. We’ve said there might be a case to remove that rule down the track but at the moment that doesn’t exist.