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Transcript of doorstop interview: Adelaide: 18 August 2018: Labor's plan to cut power prices; Malcolm Turnbull's energy chaos

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SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to cut power prices, Malcolm Turnbull’s energy


MARK BUTLER: Thanks for coming out this morning. While the Government has

been at war with itself over energy policy, Labor has been busy developing a plan

that will actually make a real difference to Australian households and businesses

and today I announce a further element of Labor’s energy plan. Labor’s plan will

make sure that Australian households and businesses finally get a fair deal from

the big privatised power companies while Malcolm Turnbull this week intends to

put all of his energy into giving those same companies a whopping tax cut.

Labor intends to implement a recommendation from the consumer watchdog to

introduce a new regulated default offer into the electricity market - a reform that will

put up to $165 back into the pocket of 1.2 million hardworking Australian

households. We will also make sure that any discounts offered in the market will be

set against that default offer, benefiting millions more households as well.

Labor’s plan is going to put an end to the standing offers that the consumer

watchdog says have been ripping off hundreds of thousands of households for far

too long. We will also put an end to the so-called “discounts” that have been

ripping off Australian households and operating only to the benefit of the big

privatised power companies. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull has made an announcement on Facebook about

default power prices. What do you make of that policy?

BUTLER: We want to see, obviously, further detail of Malcolm Turnbull’s

announcement but I think Australian households and businesses have come to

learn a couple of things about Mr Turnbull’s announcements in energy. The first is

he is unable to put forward simple policy based on advice from experts, like the

consumer watchdog, without having to bolt on outlandish ideas forced on him by

the hard-right of the Coalition party room. And I’m sure the latest policy

announcement will feature some of those outlandish ideas again. We’ve also seen

in recent days that the life expectancy of so-called “rock solid” policy commitments

by Malcolm Turnbull is about 72 hours.

Labor on the other hand speaks with one voice on energy policy. Our unity in this

area means that we are able to study reports, like the consumer watchdog's,

engage with stakeholders and implement those recommendations without having

to cave in to groups like the hard-right of the Coalition party room.

JOURNALIST: If it turned out to be more generous than yours, would you match


BUTLER: Well we’re happy to work and look at the detail obviously. We’re

accepting the advice of the consumer watchdog that worked for more than 12

months on this retail report. We’ve engaged with stakeholders and we’re convinced

that this is the right direction to go. We have a plan that is clear, it is based on our

united position in the Labor Party. Malcolm Turnbull, on the other hand, is riven by

chaos and division in his own party room.

JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull said he would pass on, or impose penalties on

companies that didn’t pass on the savings. In what way then is Labor’s plan any

different from the Government’s?

BUTLER: Well we have to have a look at Malcolm Turnbull’s detail and again see

whether he has been forced into some concessions from the hard-right and also

whether the plan is going to last beyond the Coalition party room meeting of

Tuesday. Labor is united in this area, we’ve studied the report carefully, we’re

implementing the recommendations from the consumer watchdog.

JOURNALIST: The savings, there have been some numbers mentioned about

maximum savings for consumers - how can you guarantee they will be introduced

under a Labor policy?

BUTLER: The consumer watchdog came up, to use their words, with a very

conservative estimate of up to $165 for those households that are currently on

those standing offers - we think about 1.2 million households, according to the

consumer watchdog. This is a conservative figure; it may be more than that. What

we also know is that small businesses on those same standing offers will benefit

by up to $1,500 per year because of this reform. And also because of the

additional announcements we’ve made, which will ensure that so-called

“discounts” operate off the same default offer rather than some figure determined

by power companies, millions of other Australian households will also benefit from

the announcements we are making today.

JOURNALIST: If the Government backs down on legislating their emissions

reduction targets will Labor increase the 26 per cent target if you get in power?

BUTLER: We’ve been very clear for more than two years now that we intend to

adopt an ambitious emissions reduction target for this sector of 45 per cent. That

will deliver thousands of jobs from the new investment we need in an electricity

system which is ageing and becoming increasingly unreliable - we will cut pollution

and we will also put downward pressure on wholesale power prices.

JOURNALIST: This is obviously not the first time power has been in the news this

week. How would you describe the Prime Minister’s handling of the entire issue?

BUTLER: Well Malcolm Turnbull is heading a Government that is eating itself on

power. This is a Government riven by chaos and division, and the energy crisis

that has emerged under Malcolm Turnbull that is really causing household budgets

and businesses viability to struggle is not going to be resolved by a Government

that is at war with itself.

Thanks everyone.