Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 9 December 2022


SUBJECTS: National Cabinet on energy prices, Christmas travel 

NATALIE BARR: All eyes are on National Cabinet today as our State and Federal leaders address skyrocketing energy prices. Energy Ministers have agreed to get more renewables into the market to avoid another power crisis. New South Wales is prepared to agree to a price cap on coal without compensation, adding pressure on Queensland to follow suit. 

Joining me now is Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley. Morning to both of you. 

Sussan, Anthony Albanese did promise action on rising energy prices before Christmas. It looks like you’re going to get it. Do you think? 

LEY: I’m not sure, Nat. All Australians want for Christmas is their $275 reduction in their power bill. And that was a promise made six months ago. Here we are on a Friday leading into Christmas and it just still seems so chaotic between the Federal Government, the States, with no real plan. So, please, Prime Minister, come out of today’s meeting, this is a test, and give us the plan that gives us the confidence that this is actually not one of your broken promises. 

BARR: Okay, Jason, they’re all in the same room. They’re all talking. It does seem like they’re progressing in the same direction. The PM wants the States to halve the price of coal used by power stations. So impose these power caps and then compensate lower income earners. That seems like it’s going to happen. Then who pays the power companies for the difference of that price cap? 

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: All of those details will be sorted out at National Cabinet this afternoon. What we’re talking about here is pretty unprecedented. I can’t remember something like this happening before. You’ve got a war overseas that’s led to the international price for coal and gas going up by 50 per cent. What’s being talked about here is putting a cap on the price of gas and coal here in Australia so that it doesn’t feed into the price of our electricity bills here. And you can’t do that just by signing a piece of paper in Canberra. You’ve got to make decisions at a State Government and a Federal Government level. What you’re seeing here is some good work by both levels of government in order to make sure that we don’t see power prices go up anymore. 

BARR: Yes, Sussan. I guess what I’m getting at is, if the Government has to bail out the companies, why isn’t that – the government’s taxpayers – won’t we have to pay for that as well? 

LEY: This is complex, Nat, and no one disagrees with that. The point is, though, that the discussions are happening now in the lead-up to Christmas, when, in fact, we were promised power relief six months ago. What has this Government been doing for six months on the critical issue of energy and the fact that ordinary Australians are facing these increases? And they were promised cheaper energy, they were promised cheaper mortgages, they were promised, in fact, that their wages would go up. And even the Government’s own budget says that your wages will not outpace inflation. So there is a cost of living crisis going into Christmas and we are concerned about the hit on families’ household costs.

BARR: Okay, well, look, it’s all being as Jason said, they’re in the same room, everyone’s talking and everyone seems to be heading in the right direction. We’ll find out today what happens. Let’s go to this next one. Millions of Aussies are obviously set to travel this Christmas after mass cancellations and strikes. Sussan, do you think people are going to be, should be rightly worried about whether they’re going to get to their destination and whether their bags are going to be there on time this Christmas? 

LEY: There’s so many people moving through our airports, but I just want to give a shout out to the hardworking people at those airports, the baggage handlers, the security people who are coping with long queues and sometimes travellers who are anxious and small children and heat and holidays. They’re doing an amazing job so that we all get home for Christmas and we all spend that time with our family and our loved ones. So everybody, have a bit of patience, get to the airport early and think of the people who are working hard for you. 

BARR: Yeah, that’s a good point, Jason. It’s sort of the first one. I know it’s the first one we’ve been allowed to go back to WA and spend with our family. And that’s the case around the country, isn’t it? 

CLARE: It certainly is. And I know you got a chance to go back there recently, Nat. When I think of airports at Christmas, I think of that movie, Love Actually. It’s not about the pain of getting through the airport, it’s what’s on the other side. And we’ve had three Christmases in a row that have been stuffed up by bushfires and COVID and everything else. This is a real opportunity to have a break, have a rest, get together with loved ones, even the mother-in-law, and have a great break. And that’s my hope for everyone around the country. 

BARR: Even the mother-in-law. 

CLARE: Even the mother-in-law. 

BARR: End it right there, Jason, if I were you. And this is my last day. So wishing you both a merry Christmas. It’s been fun. It’s sometimes a little daunting to hear you two go at it. It’s all in the spirit of a democracy, isn’t it? So have a merry Christmas, both of you and your family. 

CLARE: Merry Christmas, Nat and Sussan. 

LEY: Thank you so much Nat. Thank you, Sunrise. 

BARR: See you next year, guys.