WEDNESDAY 18 OCTOBER 2017
HOST LAURA JAYES: Joining me now is Shadow Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, the long and the short of it, will Labor offer some type of support on this?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Well you know we have been desperate for some bipartisanship. The community and industry is desperate for bipartisanship because certainty about the rules going forward is the only thing that’s going to bring new generation investment. It’s only new generation investment that will give us the affordability and reliability we are all looking for.
JAYES: So will Labor be taking one for team Australia here and jumping on board.
FITZGIBBON: It’s fair to say we have already shifted quite a deal in the hope of getting that bipartisanship.
JAYES: This is a new game now though (inaudible)
FITZGIBBON: We didn’t think the Clean Energy Target was the bees knees but we were prepared to accept that in the interest and spirit of bipartisanship so we can get investment flowing again. Now they are asking us to take another step and to support something else so we have said we will look at all the detail. I have to say, I can see lots of problems with what Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg proposed yesterday, but we will do our best to work positively with the Government to get some action on this very important front.
JAYES: What are the problems you see?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I look at this and I have three concerns. Affordability and reliability is obviously important to everyone not just households but also in industry. Jobs, particularly in my electorate where a lot of the big transition is taking place. I want to make sure there is nothing in this that sets back AGL’s plans to invest heavily in the Hunter region, therefore maintaining jobs there.
JAYES: Just on that, sorry to interrupt you Joel, on that issue, the Government had demanded that AGL come back in 90 days and put forward their plans. Would you now expect the Government to just get out of meddling with AGL because AGL will sort it out themselves and they just have to prove they will bring dispatchable power and they can probably do that with a gas peaking plant.
FITZGIBBON: That is a policy that lasted about 48 hours. Despite my urgings, neither Malcolm Turnbull or Josh Frydenberg have mentioned the word Liddell for almost a month now. I think they understand now they overreached there. So one of the many tests is, would this policy setback AGL’s plans to make that transition to pump hydro to large scale solar and to gas? At first glance I am hopeful it wouldn’t make it any more difficult for AGL, I suspect that is AGL’s view too, but we really do need to study the detail. The third concern of course I was going to go to is the environment and our transition to a lower carbon economy. Look the overwhelming majority of Australians want that and we need a scheme that allows the path of least resistance to that path to a lower carbon economy.
JAYES: Just where Labor sits with this, and I appreciate you have to look at the detail before you come to a decision here and it is a complex policy being put forward, and hard to get your head around. But Labor was willing to support the Clean Energy Target without modelling, but now Labor is demanding modelling on these $110-$115 savings on energy bills, so where is the consistency there?
FITZGIBBON: The Clean Energy Target was well understood and backed by the chief scientist himself.
JAYES: This is backed by the Energy Security Board.
FITZGIBBON: I saw the interview with, is the chair of the Energy Security Board
JAYES: Kerry Schott.
FITZGIBBON: Yes, and she made some very important points too, that one, she said very clearly you can’t really claim or assume power prices are going to fall under this scheme but she also, in many sense, and not a criticism of her, sort of raised more questions than she answered about how this thing would roll out. I think it is such a complex proposal and if you like a new proposal and absolutely acceptable that we should be asking to look at the modelling particularly when the Government is making what I think are pretty outrageous claims about what impact this would have on energy prices. There is sort of an inherit conflict in this whole thing. The government said it is going to mandate if you like more dispatchable or fossil fuels, or could be hydro and that’s fine but at the same time it’s going to constrain carbon and you have to ask yourself how that’s going to work in unison and where the additional energy generation is going to come from when this is really making it harder for renewables to continue to emerge. There are lots of questions to be answered here.
JAYES: Will the prices be lower under Labor?
FITZGIBBON: What we are trying to do is not compete. We are trying to go with the Government so we can settle this very important area of policy. We are offering that bipartisanship but we want the Government to be honest.
JAYES: But are you offering bipartisanship here?
FITZGIBBON: We are trying, we offered, I said early we made somewhat of a shift to embrace the CET. We didn’t think it was the best model but we did so in the interest of bipartisanship so we could get the investment flowing again. Now Malcolm Turnbull is expecting us to make another big step, in less than 24 hours after the announcement. I think we are entitled to take some time to study it.
JAYES: There is some legislation that needs to go before parliament but that is just ratifying essentially the Paris Target at 26-28 per cent. I just wonder, if you are offering bipartisanship here and again you do have to look at the detail. Is there room for Labor to move for when it comes to the 50 per cent renewable target by 2050 and the 45 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.
FITZGIBBON: I’m not sure it’s right to say we are offering bipartisanship. We have a constant cry for bipartisanship and what we are trying to accommodate the government. When Malcolm Turnbull allows himself to be rolled by Tony Abbott and his right wing forces in the interest of political survival, he does make it somewhat hard for the Labor Party trying to be in tune with the wishes of the Australian community.
JAYES: I’m just wondering, if you’re trying to match the Government in terms of prices, how can you do that with this 45 per cent target of reduction in emissions, which was far above what the Paris commitment was and the 50 per cent renewable target (inaudible).
FITZGIBBON: Malcolm Turnbull can’t have it both ways.
JAYES: Neither can Labor. Labor is out there this morning criticising the Government on not producing the modelling for a reduction in prices, but on the other hand, you guys are still maintaining these targets that are well above what the Government is proposing, so I don’t know how that can, that Labor can produce better prices and a better cost for consumers?
FITZGIBBON: Well at a time when things are changing very rapidly and new technologies are emerging, particularly in battery storage and large scale solar.
JAYES: Is there modelling on that?
FITZGIBBON: At a time when renewables are falling in price, and look, Malcolm Turnbull himself suddenly conjured up Snowy 2.0 sort of overnight and all these things are evidence…
JAYES: So you have been around politics for the last 10 years, you know how fractured this energy debate has been and both sides have asked the public to trust them and we are now at this situation where we are not talking about a citizens assembly on climate, we are not talking about direct action either, so is this finally..
FITZGIBBON: Laura, Labor had a legislated scheme with lots of compensation, industry support, you name it, legislated in place.
JAYES: Let’s not go back over the history.
FITZGIBBON: And that was torn up and we are very cautious and we don’t trust Malcolm Turnbull ever on this because we know Malcolm Turnbull is not putting forward a proposal he really believes in, he’s putting forward a proposal which allows his survival in the party room. We are right to run the ruler over I very, very carefully.
JAYES: Fair enough but one final question, in your heart of hearts, you know you can’t promise Labor can guarantee cheaper prices than what the government is offering. That is the crunch point when it comes around to an election.
FITZGIBBON: I can promise you Labor will do all it can to strike some sort of arrangements which allows investment to flow. The only thing that will put downward pressure on prices Laura is new generation Laura is new generation capacity. That is the main game here.
JAYES: Joel Fitzgibbon always good to talk to you, thanks so much.
FITZGIBBON: A great pleasure.