Subjects: Newspoll, energy policy.
HOST: It’s time for Two Tribes, Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese join us. Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Will and David and Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning. Good to be back.
HOST: Good to have you back Albo. Now we will kick off with you today if we can Chris.
HOST: Only five more sleeps until Newspoll number 30. What’s the vibe like in government ranks?
PYNE: The vibe is completely disinterested in the next Newspoll in the same way as we are every fortnight because what really matters is when people have to make a decision on election day and what the Liberal Party has been good at is winning the vote that counts, which is election day.
HOST: The Prime Minister didn’t get that memo once upon a time though did he, about 30 Newspolls ago?
PYNE: Well we have won I think almost all, bar one, of the last eight elections and one was tied so I have said we are an election-winning machine and that is because we focus on what counts, which is polling day, not Newspoll. Newspoll said we were going to lose the Bennelong by-election. It said the Tasmanian election was too close to call. Both of those were wrong. It said they couldn’t call the South Australian election and it was a clear win for the South Australian Liberal Party
HOST: We called it.
PYNE: In fact I called it and you called it. They said Xenophon was going to be the Premier of South Australia. He didn’t even win his own seat.
HOST: Could it have been wrong about Tony Abbott as well?
PYNE: I would rather focus on the poll that counts, not the Newspoll.
HOST: What about his pro-coal ginger group Christopher? Is that a new headache for the Prime Minster? Paul Kelly’s piece this morning is quite devastating, talking about it is almost the parties’ conservatives have become socialists, saying that they should use public money to build a $2.2 billion coal-fired power station. Do you support that idea?
PYNE: Well it is good to have backbenchers involved in policy development. I was a backbencher and I used to be very engaged in policy development. Wasn’t always welcome, must be said, but it was, it’s a good thing for people to be doing. The truth is the National Energy Guarantee allows anything that is economic, whether it is solar or wind or pumped hydro or coal to go ahead if it can produce dispatchable power at lower prices and reliable energy for consumers. That is the point of the National Energy Guarantee. If a coal-fired power station is economic, somebody will build it.
HOST: What about you Albo? What is going on in Labor Land at the moment? Have you guys sorted out your superannuation business for the self-funded retirees or are there more tweaks on the way there?
ALBANESE: Well, I had nodded off for a while there while Christopher was saying how well the Government was going. I think the fact is that the Government is in awful shape. If you had gone away for a few years and not read any papers and come back or looked online, and you’d come back to Australia and you’d said there is this ginger group of politicians who want to use taxpayers’ money to nationalise a coal-fired power station, you would have thought: My God, how did the Trots get elected to Parliament? I mean it is just bizarre how …
HOST: Can you explain one thing though Albo that I find bizarre? How is it that we are one of the world’s pre-eminent coal exporters, yet we have got to a point in this country where we don’t want to use it to create power for ourselves anymore? There seems to be a logical sort of problem there for me.
ALBANESE: Well, the fact is the market is determining where energy policy is going globally and globally it is going towards renewable energy. This isn’t just something that is happening in Australia. It is also happening in the developing world. I was in India at the end of last year, which has a national government with a policy of stopping coal imports by the end of this decade and a massive expansion of solar energy that makes what we‘ve done look very small and unambitious indeed.
PYNE: They also have a plan for a massive expansion of coal-fired power stations to fund 30 new cities, so let’s not pick and choose. The truth is the good thing about the National Energy Guarantee is it allows all of these forms of energy to be successful as long as they are economic in doing so and that is exactly what we want to see happen because consumers want to stop the arguments about ideology and they just want cheaper power and reliable power and that is what we are guaranteeing.
HOST: Chris Pyne, what are you hearing then about the outcome or the impact of the National Energy Guarantee when it comes to a marketplace that is seemingly increasingly hostile to coal? Will we get new coal plants as a result of your energy policy?
PYNE: Well, you might if they are economic. But let’s not forget that we still get at least 50 percent in fact more so, about 60 per cent plus, of our energy in Australia from coal-fired power stations. So I know that everybody in the bubble would like to live in this sort of Nirvana suggestion that coal is out. We are still getting more than half of our energy from coal and it is expected that we will still get more than half our energy from coal by 2050. So it’s lovely to live in an unreality, but of course we are in favour of wind and solar and pumped hydro and we are investing. The largest renewal energy project in Australia’s history is Snowy Hydro 2.0, which the Turnbull Government is doing because we support renewable energy. It doesn’t mean we can completely abandon coal.
ALBANESE: We certainly won’t be getting more than half of our energy from coal in 2050.
PYNE: That’s what the estimate is.
ALBANESE: The fact is that a whole range of our coal-fired power stations are beyond their life expectancy. That is the case with Liddell. That was the case with Hazelwood. You would think, listening to this debate and some of the backbenchers with an obsession like Craig Kelly or Tony Abbott, clearly trying to return to the leadership, that a Government decision was made to shut down Hazelwood. It didn’t. That was a private sector decision based upon the operation of the market that it was unviable, that it had reached the end of its life. Now …
PYNE: It was 50 years old.
ALBANESE: … the fact is that managing that transition is important. You do need some consistency in terms of policy. The problem for this Government is that we have had years of debate with different options including this one, the one before from the Chief Scientist, and the one before that, and they have jumped around. What the market really wants and the energy sector are saying is they want is certainty and that is why the Government needs some consistency.
PYNE: That is what the National Energy guarantee is all about …
ALBANESE: And that …
PYNE: …supported the ACTU and the Australian Conservation Foundation.
ALBANESE: … and that is why the undermining of the Government from within is so pathetic.
PYNE: But the alternative is your Leader, Bill Shorten, who favours the Adani coal mine when he is in North Queensland but is against the Adani coal mine when …
HOST: That’s enough. We are going to have to jump in. It’s getting a bit ratty there. Good to have you back Albo. We missed you last week. Mark Butler made the chilling suggestion that we had to get rid of Two Tribes – the Frankie Goes to Hollywood song – as our theme song. We got rid of Mark Butler.
ALBANESE: That is the end of him.
PYNE: We had to get rid of Mark Butler.
ALBANESE: He won’t be replacing me anymore.
HOST: No, he’s gone. He’s had his moment in the sun. We will do it all again next week after that 30th Newspoll that nobody cares about. Christopher Pyne, Anthony Albanese …
ALBANESE: I’ll bet Christopher might notice it.
PYNE: I’ve moved on.
HOST: All right, Good on you guys.
WEDNESDAY, 4 APRIL, 2018