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Transcript of doorstop interview: Mulgrave, Victoria: 6 March 2017: energy security & affordability; Labor failure; Prime Minister's upcoming visit to Indonesia; free trade; One Nation; No Jab - No Pay policy; Victorian Liberal Party; Budget 2017; WA state election; housing affordability.

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6 March 2017

Doorstop - Visit to Peters Ice Cream with Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator the Hon. Mitch Fifield

Mulgrave, Victoria

SUBJECTS: Energy security & affordability; Labor failure; Prime Minister’s upcoming visit to Indonesia; Free trade; One Nation; No Jab - No Pay policy; Victorian Liberal Party; Budget 2017; WA State Election; Housing affordability.



It’s great to have the Prime Minister in south east Melbourne, in the heartland of Victorian manufacturing. South east Melbourne produces 44 per cent of Victoria’s manufacturing output and manufacturing in this area employs in excess of 90,000 people.

In this part of the state, everything is produced, from ice cream, to trains, and from bolts to buses and everything in between. So it’s great to have the Prime Minister’s interest in Victoria’s manufacturing sector.


Well thanks Mitch and it’s great to be here at Peters. This is a 110-year-old Australian business, part of all of our lives. Don Bradman was one of your great promoters in years past.

300 employees here in a very modern factory here, here in Melbourne, as Mitch said, in the heart of manufacturing.

What is absolutely vital for Michael's business to be competitive is to have affordable and reliable electricity.

You can imagine, there’s a lot of demand for electricity in an ice cream business to keep all of that refrigeration going. So it’s a very significant part of his overhead.

Michael has got a 3-year contract which is coming to an end with his electricity supplier and it’s coming up for renewal. If it goes to its current spot price, it will more than double.

Now, you can imagine what that does to a business that has to compete with imports, that has to compete with rivals. It’s obviously got big powerful customers and the big retailers. That puts real pressure on an Australian manufacturing business with 300 jobs.

This is the consequence of Labor's ideological, complacent, lazy approach to energy policy.

Right around Australia, here in Victoria, in the worst case of course, in South Australia, they have been introducing large amounts of renewable energy into the grid, allowing base-load power stations to close and doing so without any plan to deliver affordability and reliability.

Australian businesses, Australian families need affordable and reliable power.

That is why my Government is working with the Chief Scientist, the Energy Committee of Cabinet, the Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg to ensure that we put in place the changes to the national electricity market, the changes to policy that ensure that we can have an energy policy that is not influenced by politics or ideology - as Labor’s is - but one that is based on economics and engineering to deliver the most affordable and reliable power for Australian businesses and families and, of course, deliver our emission reduction targets that we agreed to in Paris.

It is vitally important for this business and every business across Australia.


Prime Minister if I can just direct your attention to your upcoming trip to Indonesia. The Australia-Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Partnership, would Australia consider giving Indonesia greater labour access under the new agreement?


Well, we’re negotiating, as you noted, a free trade agreement with Indonesia, a Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement. We’ve already seen terrific progress there, as you saw the weekend before last when President Widodo was here. We secured a reduction in the Indonesian tariff on Australian sugar to the ASEAN level, so we are on a level playing field, for example, with Thailand. And also, more access for live cattle exports.

So, we’re making very good progress there and I look forward to discussing it further when I am in Jakarta tomorrow.


Prime Minister, yesterday, of course, you already commented on Pauline Hanson's comments. It wasn't so long ago that one of your senior colleagues said that One Nation had become more sophisticated. How does that stand against the idea that she admires a Russian tyrant, while suggesting that those who vaccinate, force vaccination on people are dictators?


I’ll leave the personalities to you, Tony, I'll focus on the policies.

Just on the subject of vaccination, I just want to repeat what I said yesterday. Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are putting their own children's health at risk and they are putting the health of everybody else's children at risk as well. That is why vaccination is so important. That is why we have our

No Jab, No Pay policy. It has worked very well over the last year and we have seen 200,000 more children vaccinated as a result.


Prime Minister the Liberal Party presidency here in Victoria seems to be Kroger versus Reith. Apparently Matthew Guy is behind Reith, how about yourself?


I'll leave the Victorian Liberal Party's determinations to the Victorians.

The important thing for the Victorian Liberal Party to do, as you know - and I’ve got every confidence that this is what will happen- is work hard, as a united team to ensure Matt Guy is elected premier and that my Government is returned and I am returned as Prime Minister at our election in 2019.


Speaking of elections, will you be heading to Perth any time this week?


No, my schedule is not taking me to Perth this week. I was there very recently, as you know.


Just to take you back to part of my question. One of your senior colleagues, as I said, spoke of One Nation as being more sophisticated than previously. Do you stand by that at this point?


Well Tony, thanks for the inquiry, but I am very happy to take questions on particular policies, whether it is health policies or foreign policies or economic policies but I’m not getting into a general political commentary, let alone on personalities.

So if you have a question on a particular policy, very happy to address it and talk about it.


Is that because the West Australian election is this week?


It’s because that’s been my invariable practice and it’s a very sound one from someone in my position as Prime Minister. So if you have a specific question on a policy, very happy to take it, whether it is foreign or domestic.


Prime Minister, are you going to still pursue the full range of zombie budget cuts? Or do you acknowledge now that some of them you need to let go?


We are pursuing all of our budget measures and seeking the support of the Senate to them. So that is our commitment. All of those measures that were in MYEFO, for example, we are seeking their passage by the Senate in the course of the next few sitting weeks.


Do you have any new initiatives, if you like, to follow up with what you just said about energy in Victoria? You’ve said that Labor is going to rely on renewable energy - well Victoria has got quite a lot.


Yes. Well, let me say our policy is all of the above. Coal, gas, wind, solar, hydro - all have a role to play and very important roles to play.

Now, the problem that the Labor Party has created for this business and many other businesses and families is that they have done absolutely no planning in the way that they've had this highly ideological commitment to introducing large amounts of renewables into the grid.

You see this, the worst case of course is South Australia where you have the least reliable and the most expensive electricity in Australia.

If Bill Shorten was Prime Minister, that would be the pattern right across Australia.

Now, of course, you need to have a proper planned approach to it. That is why we are focused on storage. Very important that you have more storage of electricity, so as you see we have announced a funding for a study into a pumped hydro, a new pumped hydro storage facility near Port Augusta to make a very significant difference to the stability of the South Australian grid. There is potential for that elsewhere in Australia.

But then, of course, you also have got the big issue of gas. Gas is a cleaner fuel than coal so it has been part of every energy modelling or climate modelling for many years. The assumption has been you burn less coal and more gas, but you have got in this state, which has great gas resources, onshore gas resources, a ban on both conventional and unconventional gas exploration.

So, the challenge here is how do businesses use gas if it has gone up to, it has more than doubled in price over the last few years. So the Labor Party is not only introducing or seeking to introduce large amounts of renewables into the grid, creating instability and doing so in a way that is unplanned, but they are also opposing the availability, creating more availability for gas which is a critically important fuel, particularly in this state with so much industry and manufacturing as Mitch described.

I will perhaps take two more and then we will leave it. Tony, fire away.


Do you imagine that Bill Shorten is actually turning his back on the La Trobe Valley and all its workers? Could he even do that politically?


In this state, the Labor Party has allowed the closure of the Hazelwood Power Station with no planning, no planning at all. A massive reduction in the reliable electricity base load power for Victoria. They have got no planning to make up for that, to provide for that. They have let down the workers at Hazelwood and they have let down industry and families right across the state.


Just on the Budget again, Prime Minister, will you be targeting the national affordable housing agreement? Scott Morrison has described it as ‘disgraceful’.


Thank you for the question. The Budget is now two months away. We've got a lot of work to do between now and then. We have got a lot of questions on the Budget as we always do in the lead up to the Budget. But the Budget will be revealed as it always is, as very experienced journalists like Mr Wright here knows on Budget night.


Do you recognise though housing affordability is an issue for a lot of Australians. Do you welcome what the Victorian Government did yesterday? They say they had to act because the Federal Government hasn’t been doing enough.


I am sure they would say that, but housing affordability has been a key focus of my Government right from the outset and the most important change that we need is more supply. There is a lot of talk and commentary on housing affordability. It is a very big issue. Especially, even bigger issue in Sydney where I come from than it is here in Melbourne where it is a big issue as well.

The most important thing that we need is more housing. That is, we need to free up zoning and planning to get more dwellings approved. You need to ensure that you have more dwellings zoned particularly around transport infrastructure, you know, railway stations and so forth. So that it is really a supply side challenge overwhelmingly.

I know there are issues about tax and obviously stamp duty is a barrier to investment in housing, but the tax and stamp duty and other issues are very relevant. But, the biggest issue is supply.

Now, my Cities Policy, our approach to planning, the way that we are working with governments, state governments, and conditioning Federal Government investment into cities in return for appropriate planning measures, that will deliver over time greater supply of housing.

In New South Wales, for example, you had the Labor Government for many years, Bob Carr remember said; Sydney is closed - “Sydney is full!" - remember? What happened was demand kept on building, supply didn't respond and you had the inevitable result. So it is a big challenge, but it is one that we are absolutely focused on. It is a very important one, but we need federal, state and local government to work together.

Thank you.