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Transcript of interview with Michael Rowland: ABC News Breakfast: 10 August 2018: COAG; National Energy Guarantee; Emma Husar

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SUBJECT/S: COAG, National Energy Guarantee, Emma Husar.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Let’s get more on that COAG meeting, we’re joined by the Shadow Energy Minister, Mark Butler, he joins us from Adelaide. So Mark Butler you heard from Josh Frydenberg, what did you think of that compromise proposal? Final hook-up on Tuesday, state legislation released and moving forward after that?

MARK BUTLER: We will wait and see what comes out of the meeting, Michael. What is important is that we keep moving forward here. This is the latest of three or four different attempts by this Federal Government to try and bring an end to the very deep energy crisis that has emerged under Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. We need a mature discussion, by all governments at this meeting, not a take it or leave it approach by anyone. But a mature discussion that keeps this thing moving forward.

ROWLAND: Is there something to be said for the states and territories, and the Federal Minister, to agree on a framework today, Mark Butler, and sort out the nuts and bolts as early as next Tuesday - if not a short time after that?

BUTLER: I think a number of states are understandably concerned about whether or not Malcolm Turnbull is going to have difficulty in his own party room, particularly given a number of the comments made by Coalition figures over the last several days. So hopefully the phone conference can deal with that. But there are also some serious questions around, not so much the mechanism per se, but what investment it will pull through over coming years.

We know the mechanism is all well and good but the purpose of it is to pull through investment in new renewable energy, because the surest way to bring down power prices is building new renewable energy. And a very deep concern stakeholders have is not with the mechanism, but the settings Malcolm Turnbull would apply to the mechanism which would mean there would not be a single large-scale renewable energy project built in the country for an entire decade and the rates of installation of

rooftop solar on people’s households would be cut by about half. That is a recipe for pushing up power prices, not bringing it down. So the discussion really at this meeting will be making sure there is a way that future governments can inevitably raise those targets, because the targets are what will pull through the new investment that will push down power prices.

ROWLAND: That is one of the key sticking points, talking about raising those targets in the future, the Labor states and the Federal Opposition is insisting that be done by ministerial regulation and not by legislation. Josh Frydenberg told me earlier that no, you need legislation on that to guarantee investor certainty. He has got a point hasn’t he?

BUTLER: Let’s see how those discussions go. I think the critical thing is we have all given up on hoping that Malcolm Turnbull will come to a reasonable position on targets, but what we can’t have is devices put into the legislation that would tie the hands of future governments doing what the overwhelming number of businesses and stakeholders know will have to happen - and that is raising the targets probably sooner rather than later. If we don’t raise those targets there will be again an investment freeze in the 2020s that will again see wholesale power prices skyrocket.

ROWLAND: How much is Labor refusing to commit to legislation - a concern that a future Labor government would have to negotiate with Greens in the Senate when it comes to an emissions reduction target?

BUTLER: I think there is a challenge for governments of both political persuasions having to get through the crossbench. It’s not just the Greens, it is a range of other crossbench Senators that are now pretty much a fact of life in modern politics. So obviously that is something governments of both political persuasions bear in mind. There are other devices that the government has been trying to introduce into this legislation that would lock in low ambition for up to 12 years and see an investment freeze that would ultimately be felt by households and businesses in power prices continuing to go up, and up, and up.

ROWLAND: Just before you go Mark Butler, we know your colleague Emma Hussar flagged her intention not to recontest her seat in Sydney at the next federal election after those bullying allegations. The Prime Minister is floating now an inquiry into those allegations against Emma Husar, what do you make of that?

BUTLER: I make a lot of playing politics by the Prime Minister on this. We’ve had a very serious independent inquiry underway in the New South Wales branch and we want to see that inquiry go through its processes and deliver its report to the branch, as it is expected to do very soon. But also Emma Husar has taken a very difficult decision in the interest of herself and her family. We want to see some closure there as well. I don’t think it is particularly constructive for the Prime Minister to play politics with this. The party is trying to deal with this in the most objective, sensible, way possible with this inquiry. I’m going to let that run its course.

ROWLAND: Mark Butler in Adelaide thank you very much for joining us on News Breakfast.

BUTLER: Thank you, Michael.