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Transcript of interview with Kim Landers: ABC AM: 17 August 2018: National Energy Guarantee; policy on tax cuts



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The Hon Michael McCormack MP Deputy Prime Minister Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Leader of The Nationals

Federal Member for Riverina

The Hon Michael McCormack MP

Parliament House Canberra| (02) 6277 7520 | minister.mccormack@infrastructure.gov.au Suite 2, 11-15 Fitzmaurice Street, Wagga Wagga NSW 2650 | michael.mccormack.mp@aph.gov.au

TRANSCRIPT

Interview with Kim Landers, ABC AM 17 August 2018

E&OE

Subjects: National Energy Guarantee; policy on tax cuts

KIM LANDERS:

Well, a few Nationals MPs are among those threatening to cross the floor. A short time ago I spoke with the Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack.

[Excerpt]

Deputy Prime Minister, good morning.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Good morning, Kim.

KIM LANDERS:

Is the government going to stop big energy companies like AGL, Origin and Energy Australia from selling power between their generation and retail businesses at inflated prices?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, the plan is to bring the big stick out and if energy companies want to gouge the market, push power prices up, then certainly we've got a big stick approach to make sure that they don't do that.

KIM LANDERS:

What exactly does that big stick look like though?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, heavy penalties, heavy fines. We don't want energy companies to take advantage of Australian consumers, whether those consumers are householders, whether those consumers are businesses. The whole emphasis of the National Energy Guarantee is to make power prices more affordable.

KIM LANDERS:

So you're going to set a default electricity price, are you?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well look, the whole process is being, obviously, continuing to be drafted. But we don't want, we don't want our consumers to continue to be ripped off. We don't want consumers in any way, shape or form to have higher power prices. Now, that’s what Labor stands for. They say let the market rip. They say the market will- the market working effectively is higher power prices. We don't have the same view.

KIM LANDERS:

Just so consumers are clear, at what point do you bring out that big stick and hit those companies with those big fines?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, we don't want to see power price spikes and that's what we've seen way too often in the past. But thankfully, the power prices are coming down. We've already seen downward pressure on power prices and certainly the intervention that the Prime Minister has done in the gas market, making sure that there is that big stick approach to gas exports, to make sure that we have domestic supply when demand is high, and obviously demand is always going to be high. We’re increasing business, we're increasing it and we're growing the economy. So we're making sure, we're making sure that affordability is the key factor of the NEG.

KIM LANDERS:

So now that the Prime Minister is talking tough against the power companies, is it time for some of those rogue MPs to pipe down and support the National Energy Guarantee?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, one thing that we do in the Coalition is that we have a robust discussion. We had one in the joint party room on Tuesday. We don't expel parliamentarians from our side who have a different view. But what we are saying is that the whole emphasis is on affordability and that's what each and every member of the Coalition is focused on. The Prime Minister has a laser-like approach to…

KIM LANDERS:

[Talks over] So is it time for that robust discussion to end though? Is it time for that robust discussion to end? Is that your message to your colleagues?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, you know, unity is everything in politics and certainly when we're working in a unified way to put downward pressure on prices and we've got approaches to make sure that that happens, as I said, the Prime Minister has a laser-like focus to making sure that power prices are more affordable. As do I, as does each and every member of the Coalition ministry and backbench.

KIM LANDERS:

Has your Assistant Minister Keith Pitt threatened to resign from the frontbench so that he can oppose this NEG?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

He’s not told me that.

KIM LANDERS:

He’s your Assistant Minister. You promoted him to the frontbench. You haven't asked him about those reports?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

And he’s doing- well of course, Keith and I have had discussions. We’ve had…

KIM LANDERS:

[Interrupts] So what did he say to you about that threat?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, his focus too is on lower power prices. One of Keith’s close associates, Trevor St Baker, has a plan to actually invest in a coal-fired power station, and of course, the NEG is technology agnostic. Of course, we want more investment in dispatchable power, but affordable power is the whole focus of the NEG.

KIM LANDERS:

You've had other Nationals colleagues - Barnaby Joyce, George Christensen - threatening to cross the floor. Are they threatening the stability of the government?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

We’re focused on making sure that there's affordable power prices, and look as I say, we can…

KIM LANDERS:

[Interrupts] But specifically about your own members, have you tried to persuade them not to do that?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, of course, I've had discussions with each and every one of my members this week. But I have discussions with my National Party members all the time, whether we're sitting and whether we're not sitting. We have constant discussions, that's what a leader does, that's what National Party people do. But every one of the National Party members is focused on bringing down power prices for regional Australians because they’re hardest hit, let me tell you, because there’s so much activity going on in regional Australia; irrigation farmers, they can't afford high power prices, farmers in general can’t, small businesses right throughout the areas that we represent.

KIM LANDERS:

Are you convinced though, that when it comes to a vote, people like Barnaby Joyce and George Christensen will be back in the tent? Have you done enough to get some of your own Nationals members back on side?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, I believe that that is the case, certainly. And they know, they know that the best way to get delivery and continued delivery for regional Australia is through a Liberal Nationals government. They know that power prices and bringing them down is a key factor of everything that we hear when we go to town hall meetings, when we go to activities throughout our electorates and when we talk to businesses, when we talk to Mr and Mrs Average, that's what they're telling us, bring power prices down. We've got a plan to do it, it’s the only plan on the table. And we're focused on making sure that power prices continue to drop.

KIM LANDERS:

Another policy that's causing a little bit of trouble in government ranks is this policy for tax cuts for big business. Nationals MPs like Michelle Landry and Ken O'Dowd, they've been saying that it's time to dump the policy. Should the Government do that if the package can't make it through the Senate?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, discussions are ongoing with crossbenchers and we'll see how that that fares. And next week…

KIM LANDERS:

[Interrupts] I’m talking about members of your own party, though.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Yeah sure look, I appreciate that. And look, they're under pressure. I appreciate that GetUp! and the unions have a lot of activity in some of the more marginal seats. But Michelle Landry is a fighter. Each and every one of our LNP members, they get in there and fight and they, moreover, deliver for the people they represent. They want to get back into parliament just like we all do.

KIM LANDERS:

If it doesn't get through the Senate though, should it be dumped as government policy?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, that's hypothetical. We're hoping that it does get through the Senate. And if the senators were half smart they'd do it because fact is we want all our businesses, large and small, to be on that same scale but we want them to be internationally competitive. We are in a global economy, we need to be internationally competitive.

KIM LANDERS:

Deputy Prime Minister, thank you very much for speaking with AM this morning.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Thanks Kim, any time.

[End of excerpt]

[ENDS]

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