Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
MATHIAS CORMANN: We welcome the decision by Liberal and National parties in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to do away with a specific State renewable energy target in their States in favour of a national approach, the national approach which has been legislated some time ago.
Labor’s ideological approach seeking to pursue an unrealistic fifty per cent renewable energy target would drive up the cost of electricity for families, would undermine energy security, would be bad for families and impose additional cost of living pressures and would be bad for business because higher electricity prices and lower energy security is bad for investment and bad for jobs.
The Coalition is best equipped to put downward pressure on cost of living pressures and is best equipped to ensure businesses across Australia have the best opportunity to be successful and to hire more Australians.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how this national approach would work?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The national approach to the renewable energy target has been legislated some time ago. We have a renewable energy target effectively of 23 per cent. That provides certainty to the renewable energy sector. It is realistic. What we need in Australia is to continue to focus on policies that will help ensure a reliable and affordable supply of energy at the same time as we continue to deliver on our commitments to reduce emissions.
QUESTION: There’s a group out, a group of organisations out this morning, everyone from the ACTU, business council, WWF, are calling on politicians of both sides to stop playing games with energy policy. Is your government guilty of that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is a very serious matter. People across Australia need access to reliable and affordable energy supply. Families across Australia need access to reliable and affordable energy supply. Businesses across Australia, who compete for business with other businesses from other parts of the world, need access to reliable and affordable energy supply. Labor and the Greens are taking a reckless, irresponsible and ideological approach to energy policy. They are pursuing policies that would drive up the cost of electricity for families and for business, which will be bad for cost of living pressures and it will also be bad for the capacity of businesses to hire more Australians. We want more jobs for Australians. We want a better opportunity for Australians to get ahead. That is why among other things we need to ensure that businesses can have access to a reliable and an affordable supply of energy.
QUESTION: So that is what this group is calling for, but they are accusing both sides of politicising the issue.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are focussed on ensuring that we have the right solutions to the issues that are emerging. If you look at what State Labor governments in South Australia and other parts of the Australia are doing, the results are there for all to see. Extreme weather events in the past, because of an overly heavy reliance on wind and solar have meant that their systems just couldn’t cope. In Australia in 2017, it is completely unacceptable that you can have blackouts in the form that we have witnessed several times now in a State like South Australia.
QUESTION: Just on South Australia, there is a report in Fairfax this morning saying that the Government was wrong to blame the renewables for last year’s blackout, that it was because of storm damage. Is that irresponsible of the Government to politicise it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The story in Fairfax this morning is incredibly misleading. The Federal Government has always been very clear in recognising that the events in South Australia, the blackout in South Australia last year, was caused by a weather event. The problem though is that because of the overly heavy reliance on wind and solar, the system was vulnerable. When the extreme weather event happened the system wasn’t able to cope, with the result that a whole state was without any electricity at all. That is completely and utterly unacceptable for that to happen either in 2016 or in 2017. All of us ought to work together in making sure that families and businesses across Australia can have access to affordable, reliable energy supplies and that we do so in a way that continues to reduce emissions.
QUESTION: You do not accept that it was because of the freak storm?
MATHIAS CORMAN: I have just said to you, we have always said, and that is why the story is so misleading and your question now seems to imply that we blame something other than the extreme weather events, we have always said that the extreme weather events caused the events in South Australia last year, but the problem is that the South Australian energy system was vulnerable because of its overly heavy reliance on wind and solar. So when the extreme weather event happened, the South Australian system was not able to cope. In Australia today our systems should be set up, our energy policy framework should be such that we can cope with what are entirely expectable events.
QUESTION: Can we just move to WA very quickly, the Liberals have revealed that they are going to preference One Nation above the Nationals in some parts of the State in the upcoming election. Is that going to harm the relationship between those parties?
MATHIAS CORMAN: Firstly, the Liberal party is preferencing the National party first in every single Lower House seat. Just to be clear, the Liberal party is preferencing the National party first in every Lower House seat.
When it to comes to the Upper House, Brendon Grylls in 2008 preferenced One Nation ahead of the Liberal Party. In fact, Brendon Grylls in 2008 preferenced One Nation, the Christian Democrats and Family First ahead of the Liberal party. In 2013, both the National party and the Liberal party preferenced the Shooters and Fishers, the Christian Democrats and the Family First party ahead of each other. This is just business as usual. The arrangements this year when it comes to preference arrangements are quite consistent with what has happened in the past. It is a matter for the Liberal party organisation in Western Australia to finalise. I have seen comments from the Premier, which describe the arrangement entered into by the WA Liberal party organisation as sensible and pragmatic. I would agree with the Premier’s description.
QUESTION: Having said that could we see something similar at the national level where the Coalition preferences One Nation?
MATHIAS CORMAN: There is not an election on horizon at the national level. These are matters at the right time for the Liberal party organisation to determine. That is not a matter for me to comment on today.
QUESTION: Theoretically is it a possibility?
MATHIAS CORMAN: I am not going to provide theoretical comments. What I would say is that in Western Australia the Liberal-National party alliance has provided good government for Western Australia for more than eight years. We are hoping that the people in Western Australia provide support to the Liberal-National Party Alliance government to continue their good job for Western Australia. It is an Alliance in Western Australia, it is not a Coalition. The preference arrangements this year in the Upper House are quite consistent with what they have been in previous elections.