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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Canberra: 20 August 2018: National Energy Guarantee; Liberal Party division



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THE HON. BILL SHORTEN MP

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS & ABORIGINAL AND

TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS

MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP

CANBERRA

MONDAY, 20 AUGUST 2018

SUBJECT: National Energy Guarantee, Liberal Party Division.

ANDREW LEIGH, MEMBER FOR FENNER: Well good morning everyone, my

name is Andrew Leigh, the Federal Member for Fenner and it's terrific to be here at

Majura Solar Farm. A venue that's seen the creation of a solar plant creating 45

jobs in building it, which is now powering 6000 homes. This renewables plant put

downward pressure on energy prices, downward pressure on emissions

and created jobs. This behind us is Australia's future and it's great to be here with

Bill Shorten and Mark Butler.

I'll hand over now to Bill.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody, it's

great to be here with Mark Butler, my Shadow spokesperson for Energy and

Climate Change, and Andrew Leigh who is the local Member here. What we see

behind me to my right is the future of energy in Australia. The future of energy in

Australia is renewable energy. It's the future of lower pollution and as importantly,

it's the future for lower prices. But what we see every day under the Turnbull

Government is that they have, for a long time, given up doing anything on energy

policy.

What we now have is an energy policy which is about one thing only from the

Turnbull Government, it's to save Mr Turnbull's job. The reality is that this

government is not focused on lower energy prices or reducing pollution, it's just

about appeasing Mr Turnbull's enemies in the Liberal Party so he can keep his

job. I mean I think it's fair to say that every day it's a new policy from the

Government, every day it's a policy not designed to lower energy prices but just

for Mr Turnbull to keep his job from his enemies. But I want to say, I think even

more importantly than this, Mr Turnbull has demonstrated that he's not the leader

this nation needs.

Real leadership is about fighting for the principles you believe in. Real leadership is

about not always giving in to your enemies every time they disagree with you. Real

leadership should be about putting lower pollution and lower prices at the forefront

of energy policy. But the problem is with Mr Turnbull, every time people who don't

like him in his party disagree with him, he gives up. From day one of his Prime

Ministership, we've seen the same pattern, Mr Turnbull has never seen a fight that

he won't give up his principles in order to keep his job. Mr Turnbull is truly a white

flag Prime Minister.

I'd now though, like to hand over to Mark Butler to talk about Labor's positive

alternatives to lower energy prices and to tackle pollution.

MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND

ENERGY: Well thank you Bill, thank you Andrew. While the government has been

at war with itself over energy policy over recent weeks, Labor has been busy

developing a plan that will make a real difference to households and to

businesses. And yesterday, Bill and I announced another element of that plan to

accept the ACCC, the consumer watchdog recommendation to set a default price

in the retail market. Something that would put up to $165 back in the pockets of 1.2

million hardworking households. We'd also make sure that any discounts offered in

the retail market would operate off that default offer which would

benefit millions more households as well.

Look, we're glad that Malcolm Turnbull this morning has agreed with the Labor

Party position, but what he's done is effectively as the Prime Minister who has

presided over the biggest energy crisis in living memory, this morning he gave up

on trying to resolve that crisis. He gave up in the face of the opposition of a few

members of his partyroom on doing something that would ensure we continue to

see solar farms, windfarms like this behind me, built to bring down power prices

and to cut pollution.

Now, we have seen this film before. In 2016 Malcolm Turnbull proposed an

Emissions Intensity Scheme to start to draw in new investment into the

system. This was a scheme proposed by his own Energy Markets Commission,

supported by all industry, supported by all state governments Labor and Liberal

alike, and by Federal Labor. But in the face of some opposition by Tony Abbott and

other malcontents in his partyroom, he dropped it.

In 2017 we saw exactly the same film around the Clean Energy Target proposed

by his own Chief Scientist. Broad consensus, support from Federal Labor, but

again some opposition in his own Coalition party room caused him to surrender yet

again. And this year for the third year in a row, Malcolm Turnbull has given up on

any chance of starting to bring this deep energy crisis to an end and provide some

real power price relief for households and businesses that are really struggling.

I want to address a couple of comments the Prime Minister made in his press

conference this morning. He talked about the Labor Party's position on this Bill. I

want to make clear that we had asked for briefings about the government's

legislation and had a briefing scheduled for last Thursday. That briefing

was cancelled by the government, and after a number of times where we have

tried to have that briefing rescheduled, we have heard nothing from the

Government at all.

We have been up for a briefing to understand what it was Malcolm Turnbull was

proposing but we have been rebuffed on a number of occasions now since late last

week, in our attempts to sit down with the government and understand their latest

proposals.

SHORTEN: Thanks Mark, are there any questions?

JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull said he wouldn't move to legislate the Emissions

Reductions in Parliament because he wasn't confident he had the numbers. Will

Labor offer bipartisan support on that?

SHORTEN: We won't give Malcolm Turnbull a blank cheque and I don't think

anyone reasonably would expect us to do that. But we are available to talk about

energy prices, so long as - and energy policy - so long as it delivers more

renewable energy, lower prices, and less pollution. As Mark Butler just

enumerated, Labor hasn't been the problem in this issue. We were prepared to

engage on Mr Turnbull's first idea of an Emissions Intensity Scheme in 2016.

Labor was again prepared to compromise and engage on Mr Turnbull's 2017 plan

which was a Clean Energy Target designed by the Chief Scientist. And in 2018 we

are prepared to discuss Mr Turnbull's latest policy. But I think in all fairness if you

know what his latest policy is could you let us know? Because he keeps changing

his mind every day.

The real problem is Mr Turnbull believes bipartisanship is when he can get the two

wings of his own party to agree, he's not talking about us. And I say to Malcolm,

you've got my number, we're down the hall from you, on other matters we have

worked together. I am not saying that we will automatically agree, but I am willing

to put aside party politics just to do something to lower energy prices, to lower

emissions and to have more renewable energy in the system.

JOURNALIST: Will you seek to legislate an emissions target through a Private

Member’s Bill?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all let's see what Mr Turnbull's proposals are. We are

committed to lowering pollution. If there are no targets, then how do you know how

you are going? I mean, this is really - energy prices is now at the tyranny of the

lowest common denominator. Can't we just call it straight here? Mr Turnbull cannot

sort out his own party, he doesn't control the Parliament and he is incapable of

negotiating with Labor.

See, the wicked position which householders and small businesses are in is,

you've got a Prime Minister who has been told by his own party that if he talks to

Labor he loses his job. But Labor is willing to talk with him. We are not saying that

we will agree but we're not saying that we'll disagree You know, what we want for

Australians is not - I don't care if Mr Turnbull's the Prime Minister or Peter Dutton

or anyone else they recycle through the system. What I'm worried about is that

energy prices have exploded under the Liberal Government for the last five years.

We are no closer to putting more renewable energy into the system through

government policy, and of course we need to do more to lower our pollution

emissions.

Mr Turnbull's got to realise that if he wants to stay leader of the Liberal Party, he

has got to show real conviction. He should stand up to the people in his party who

want to hold the future back. I'm willing to work with the government, because that

is what the Australian people expect me to do. We won't work at any price, we

won't just give up everything about renewable energy and tackling lower pollution.

But when Mr Turnbull gets up today and says that he doesn't have bipartisanship,

the real problem is, it is families and small businesses who suffer the price of the

fact that Mr Turnbull and his enemies in the Liberal Party are more consumed

about fighting each other than they are about lowering energy prices and lowering

pollution emissions.

JOURNALIST: What will it take for the Government to get Labor's support on their

energy policy?

SHORTEN: Do you have any idea what the current government position is? I think

it is a fair point, but when you ask us what we will have to do to agree with them,

what is their current position? I mean, on Tuesday Mr Turnbull said it must be

legislated, an emissions target. He said in fact not to legislate it would be an

assault on democracy. Then on Friday he was prepared to assault democracy, and

he said no it can just be done by regulation. Now today, we have our best

hieroglyphics interpreters out trying to understand the merchant bankers'

gobbledygook press conference this morning. But we're not clear what he wants.

When they've got a position, come and talk to us. But when Mr Turnbull says that

bipartisanship is beyond us, that's unfair. We've been available to talk for two

years, plus. Our track record is we have been willing to consider whatever proposal

they come up with. They don't have a functioning proposal, and it's not just us.

Remember Mr Turnbull sat down with the states before Parliament resumed, and

he had one proposal for them, and they said well we might look at that, we might

not, but that's all changed, I can't keep up with the Liberal Party internal warfare.

JOURNALIST: Do you expect to face Malcolm Turnbull at the next election or is it

on now?

SHORTEN: I'm not worried about who I face from the Liberal Party at the next

election, frankly. What worries me is that the price of everything has gone up

except people's wages. The pensioners are having their energy supplement cut,

there's still cuts on the books for hospitals and health care, cuts to schools and

TAFE and universities and child care. It think what the Liberal Party has got to do

is stop playing the personality game, either with Labor or amongst themselves. The

reason why the Government's going poorly is because they've got very poor

policies.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Peter Dutton poses a threat for Labor or do you think

he would actually struggle to appeal to marginal voters especially in inner-city

electorates?

SHORTEN: I think the only threat Peter Dutton is at the moment is to Malcolm

Turnbull. The real threat to the Australian people is a lack of energy policy. I think a

lot of people in their lounge rooms are watching this debate and saying, what is

this National Energy Guarantee or emissions reductions, what does that all mean?

Labor's got a very clear message for Australians who are working today, raising

their families, running small businesses. We think that energy prices are out of

control. We truly believe that if we can get more renewable energy into our system

then that's going to lower power prices, and that's also going to have the very

positive benefit of lowering carbon pollution. Now we think that the future is in

solar, and wind and other technology. It will work with fossil fuel energy, but what

we've got to stop doing is holding back the future. We've got the best technology in

the world, we've got the best scientists in the world. Renewable energy is getting

cheaper every day, and we want to focus on lowering power prices. The real threat

to Australians isn't who the Liberals pick, it's the fact that they haven't got a policy

to help with cost of living. They are so out of touch, and so busy fighting each other

they have forgotten the people.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, how about those other two proposals put forward by

Mr Turnbull this morning regarding the ACCC. He said he wanted to give the

ACCC powers to divest companies of assets and also give them $32 million for

increased monitoring. Would you support those aspects of his proposal?

SHORTEN: I will hand over to Mark to talk about specifics. But you know, I would

just say to Malcolm Turnbull, please, you're the Prime Minister of Australia, get

your act together, get your house in order, start focusing on the people and lower

prices not just saving your own job.

BUTLER: Thank you Bill. Look, we'll study the announcements from Malcolm

Turnbull this morning. They are coming fast and furiously. We're getting new

announcements every 48 hours or so, that's about the shelf life of a Malcolm

Turnbull announcement in energy policy at the moment -

JOURNALIST: What about the principle of it?

BUTLER: We're going to study it and we'll do that carefully. That's what we have

done for more than two years. We don't jump at the first sort of whiff of gunshot as

the Prime Minister appears to be doing. We're taking a steady approach to energy

policy to ensure that consumers get the best possible outcomes, so we will study

everything that the Prime Minister puts on the table. Hope that it lasts more than 72

hours, and check whether it's going to be in the best interests of consumers. As I

said, I am glad and Bill's glad that the Prime Minister came to Labor's position on

making sure there was a default price in the system, which would work in the

interests of consumers. He's been jumping around on this question for months and

months and months now, and it is a pity that it took Labor taking a stand on that

the Prime Minister finally to act.

JOURNALIST: But aren't you just exacerbating the turmoil by not actually coming

to an agreement here with the government, which is what Malcolm Turnbull and

the Coalition wants. To find a consensus, you want the 26 per cent, you'd like to

ramp it up to 45 per cent. Isn't some framework better than no framework and you

actually just extend an olive branch, work on a deal and get this done rather than

just exacerbating the turmoil?

SHORTEN: Well again that is just what we have done, I mean I have to say -

JOURNALIST: You could vote with him in Parliament and pass this.

SHORTEN: Come on Jono, they don't even have legislation, they don't even know

what their own position is. They don't even tell their backbench what is going on.

What you're doing is you're saying why can't two sets of mature adults come to a

rational understanding? We're ready, but the problem is, that circus which is

currently the government can't agree on anything between breakfast and lunch

time. The reality is, if you want to have lower power prices we do need a policy

framework, and we're up for that. We accept that we might not get everything we

want in a deal with Malcolm Turnbull, but the wicked problem that Australians find

themselves in, is that Mr Turnbull has been ordered by the backroom, nameless

backbenchers and the powerbrokers of the Liberal Party, if they catch Malcolm

Turnbull negotiating in the national interest with the Labor Party, he's out on his

bottom. He loses his job.

So the real problem here is that there is a significant proportion of the Coalition

Government who are so consumed with their political fight with Labor that they'll

put the national interest second. I promise Australians now, that if and when we

are elected, we will have more renewable energy in the system, we will help deliver

and work our very best for lower prices, and we will reduce pollution, which we're

currently not doing enough of. And we are prepared in the meantime to have a

conversation with Malcolm Turnbull. He's rung me on other matters, he's spoken to

me on other matters, but on this issue we know that he is a hostage to the right

wing of his party.

And to return to what I said in the opening, Mr Turnbull's entire Prime Ministership,

from day one, has been marked by a failure of understanding real leadership. Real

leadership is fighting for the principles that you believe in. But every time there is a

struggle with his opponents in the Liberal Party, Mr Turnbull gives up the fight. He

is truly a white flag Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Peter Dutton would be a better Prime Minister in

dealing with those issues such as energy policy?

SHORTEN: Do you mean is Mr Dutton renowned for his negotiating skills and

coping with views that he doesn't like? Don't know, haven't seen any sign of it. But

I think we're getting ahead of ourselves. Malcolm Turnbull's still the Prime Minister

today. What Malcolm Turnbull said this morning is he can't get bipartisanship, he

can't control the Parliament, so he won’t even put forward what he believes in.

I'm saying Malcolm, we're available to talk, we're not promising to agree with you.

We do need to see some concrete propositions from you, but what I'd say beyond

that is that what we're looking for is lower prices for business and for families.

What we're looking for is more renewable energy, because we know that the future

is more renewable energy, equals lower power prices and we certainly want to do

more about climate change than the government is willing to do.

But in the meantime, my real concern is that this government is so consumed with

fighting themselves, they've forgotten about the energy bills which Australians are

paying right now.

JOURNALIST: Have you been in touch with the Coalition regarding getting

briefings on this new aspect of the policy?

BUTLER: Well, as I said, we had a briefing scheduled for last Thursday on NEG

mark I, which had passed according to the Prime Minister - passed the Coalition

Party room with overwhelming support. We had a briefing scheduled for Thursday,

that was cancelled by the government, we asked for a new briefing to be

organised, put a formal request in for a new briefing to be organised again on

Friday afternoon, after it became clear the Prime Minister was changing the policy

again, and we've heard nothing from them.

So look, we've been clear now for months as this National Energy Guarantee has

been worked up, that we are willing to be constructive, willing to be positive,

because of the depth of the energy crisis.

We've got out points of disagreement, we have a much more ambitious plan for

investment in renewable energy that will create jobs, cut pollution and put

downward pressure on power prices. But it's the Government that walked away

from the table last week, and they refused to brief us on any of their legislation.

JOURNALIST: Is there any part of you that feels sorry for Malcolm Turnbull?

SHORTEN: I feel sorry for the Australian people paying higher energy bills.

Actually, I feel sorry for Australians watching politics this week, they are just sick of

this circus. I was at a council depot in Western Sydney a couple of weeks ago and

had a good talk and explained our good policies on wages which the workers

liked.

But a number of them just said they're sick of the constant, you know, changing

leaders proposition. And so, what they must think this week, I mean, it reflects on

the whole of the state of the health of politics. But what I can assure people who

are sick of this circus, is Labor's learned its lesson.

We've had one leader for five years, Tanya and I are working really closely

together, the whole team is, and the point about it is when we've had a bit of

pressure on us, people have generally stuck together. What we see under the

Liberals is unless they are winning by a country mile, they start slagging and

bagging each other. It's just very unedifying.

What we say and what we promise people is even with the Liberals carrying on in

a circus which makes people sick of politics, I just want to say this to people: I get

you, I understand you, we've got a policy which will see more renewable energy in

our energy mix which will lower prices, we've got policies to get your wages

moving again.

We say to the pensioners who have had their energy supplement cut, we're going

to put that back on the table.

We say to the people who are currently waiting for elective surgery in our hospitals,

we'll property fund our hospitals.

We say to every parent who wants their child to get a quality education, we'll put

the money into your school and we'll also make sure if they want an apprenticeship

or go to university, they can.

I just want to say to people, we understand this is what you hate about politics this

week, but I also want to say that we've learnt our lesson.

We're united, we're focused on the needs of everyday Australians.

Thank you.

ENDS

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