Doorstop interview, Adelaide
Topics: National Energy Guarantee; Citizenship of Parliamentarians

Simon Birmingham: The National Energy Guarantee that the Turnbull Government released early this year was of course developed and adopted on the recommendation of the independent Energy Security Board. It was recommended because it is the ideal way for us to simultaneously tackle the challenges of ensuring reliability in our energy markets, whilst also meeting our international obligations in terms of emissions reductions and most importantly consumers doing so in the most affordable way possible. Now at the time the Turnbull Government committed that we would deliver additional modelling to underpin work on the energy guarantee. And we’re pleased that modelling has now been released showing the initial savings have been backed up, in fact are likely to be exceeded. That savings would be realised for households of some $400, or compared to business as usual scenarios around $120 on average for those households. Big savings available for businesses through their access to the wholesale energy market, in particular businesses such as a supermarket with the potential to save $400 000 off of their annual electricity bill. These are real savings that can be achieved whilst we meet emission reductions targets, whilst we guarantee reliability in our energy market that here in South Australia of course everybody appreciates is so critical in terms of just keeping the lights on.

Now it’s incredibly disappointing that the South Australian Labor party wants to keep playing politics with energy policy. I understand that Jay Weatherill and Tom Koutsantonis’ playbook is to endlessly fight the Federal Government but our ambition is to get good policy in place. The modelling now backs us up, modelling undertaken by Frontier Economics, the very same people who Jay Weatherill and Tom Koutsantonis used to model their energy policy, demonstrates savings to households, savings to businesses, delivery of reliability, meeting our international obligations, these are the types of things that we should see full support for and just yesterday we have of course everyone from Council of Trade Unions through to the Australian Industry Group come out and urge states, territories, parties, Labor and Liberal to join together and to work cooperatively on developing, delivering and implementing the National Energy Guarantee. It’s time if Jay Weatherill won’t listen to Malcolm Turnbull or the Liberal Party, it’s time for once he did listen on this occasion to the Trade Union’s and actually recognise that even they are urging everyone to work together on this, to get the solution the country deserves, stop the politics, back smart energy policy, back households and businesses to get cheaper power in the future.

Journalist: The Treasurer argues though at a state level that it favours fossil fuels, your response to that, is that a fair comment?

Simon Birmingham: The modelling shows there will continue to be growth in renewables across the next decade. Most importantly though it shows that what we do is we meet emissions reductions targets that are put in place, we do so in the most affordable way possible, providing savings through to households. I mean this ideological approach that says you need to design something that achieves this particular type of energy source is ridiculous. What you want to do is get emissions that meet the targets we commit to, do so in a way where the lights stay on and it’s as cheap as possible for households and businesses. And that’s what the National Energy Guarantee does. Its ensures we meet emissions reduction targets in the most affordable way whilst keeping the lights on. It’s a pretty simple premise, it’s a policy designed to achieve that and it does so without the ideology of saying we want to back one industry source or one energy source over another energy source.

Journalist: On to other topics, we’ve obviously seen the departure of Skye Kakoschke-Moore from earlier today, your reaction to that? Has Nick Xenophon got his house in order do you think?

Simon Birmingham: Well this would be very distressing for Skye and I understand that she would be concerned. Nick Xenophon seems to have a lot on his plate though nowadays, he’s part-time party leader in South Australia, a part-time staffer, who knows he might want to be a part-time Senator again now. It’s very hard to tell quite where Nick is at, of course he’s trying to set up a political party, a political movement, of people who are standing for what? And whilst all of the personality plays around citizenship and so on might be interesting. The core thing I’d say is actually, what are Xenophon’s policies on energy policy? I’m here talking here about energy policy, energy policy that will deliver savings to households and businesses. Bill Shorten has an energy policy which will deliver higher costs to Australian households. But there is a great big question mark against Nick Xenophon when it comes to energy policy or indeed most policies whether it at the national level or at the state level. So the faces may change, Skye Kakoschke-Moore may have to go because of her citizenship problems, but the same question mark over what does the Xenophon party actually stand-for remains.

Journalist: Do you think the citizenship situation with Skye Kakoschke-Moore could hurt Nick Xenophon’s campaign in South Australia?

Simon Birmingham: Nick Xenophon has seemingly quite a pattern of problems with candidates, with member of Parliament that have been elected, now this is a different type of problem and I’ll leave it for them to answer questions in relations to that. We are determined as a Government to make sure that the citizenship questions of every Member and Senate are clearly answered through a very transparent and public process of declaration. We didn’t ask for the High Court to make the very rigid ruling that it put in place, in fact we argued the opposite, but they did make that ruling, and we will make sure everyone lives by it, abides by it, and in case of the Xenophon team they’re going to have to make sure their candidates in the Federal Parliament, meet such standards, equally of course, they need to do obviously a far better job in terms of vetting their candidates for the State Parliament. We already had one knocked out and another one dealing with questions about whether or not they condoned different types of domestic violence.

Journalist: Just back on energy, the latest report by the energy regulator shows increasing number of people having their power disconnected. Are you saying that your policy, your plan will deliver decreased costs and less people having their power disconnected?

Simon Birmingham: The whole point of the National Energy Guarantee is to drive prices down whilst meeting all of the other obligations around emissions reductions. And that is of course why we want to see every state and territory stop playing politics and work cooperatively to get this implemented. And it’s not just the Turnbull Government calling for it, it’s the trade union movement, it’s the industry and business groups. Everyone is saying put the politics aside and get on with good energy policy. The only people not listening to those pleas are people occupying the building over there, Jay Weatherill and Tom Koutsantonis. Why won’t they decide to actually put the politics of energy aside and get on with good policy, policy that is now backed by credible modelling, policy that is endorsed by business, endorsed by unions, policy that will deliver for the country lower power prices in the future.

Journalist: The State Government says South Australians should be concerned that our market would be becoming less competitive, how do you respond to that?

Simon Birmingham: Well there are a couple of points there. Firstly, the modelling clearly shows price benefits flowing into South Australia, wholesale prices some 23% lower, now of course there are a bunch of historical circumstances around the mismanagement of the energy market in SA and the report is also clear that there is nothing to stop the State Government from making and putting in place other rules to ensure there is not a consolidation of energy players here. The thing the State Government needs to do is stop trying to create a smokescreen under which they want to play politics, start engaging constructively to actually get this policy delivered, to drive prices down, to give certainty to investors and in that framework they can also tackle issues to make sure there is true competition in the retail market.

Journalist: Will the Government place caps on market share [indistinct]?

Simon Birmingham: Well they are matters that the State Government is free to of course talk about and look at. We urge, we urge them to come to the table in good faith, to recognise the modelling has been done, the policy has been endorsed by the independent expert national security board. It’s been endorsed and is championed now by unions, industry groups and others, let’s work together to get this done rather than risk continued failure in terms of lack of investment, continued failure in terms of higher prices, continued failure in terms of risk of blackouts, those are the sorts of things that poor ad hoc energy policy at the state level has delivered to date. That’s why we need a national plan, a national energy guarantee.