Subjects: Electricity prices; South Australian economy; clean coal; gas; gold passes.
HOST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning from not-so-sunny Canberra.
HOST: Hey thanks for joining us guys. Now look, obviously South Australia was the star of the show every day in Question Time last week and unfortunately not for good reasons, but because of the argument over the state of affairs with our state’s power supply. First question to you, Chris Pyne: Did Malcom Turnbull, by prosecuting the case so aggressively, was there a risk, and I ask you this more as a South Australian than an MP, that a lot of people watching Question Time, watching the news coverage, would have thought gee, South Australia is a basket case.
PYNE: Well sadly under the Labor Government of Jay Weatherill, South Australia’s economy is a basket case and the City of Adelaide Committee came to Canberra yesterday – real serious large Adelaide businesses and asked the Federal Government what we could do to help South Australia because they can’t invest in our state because they can’t guarantee the power. Now what Malcolm Turnbull has been prosecuting is that South Australia is the canary in the coal mine, to use the words of the City Of Adelaide Committee, because if Labor gets their way nationally with their ridiculous 50 per cent renewable energy target, what has happened in South Australia is what will happen across the rest of the country and we turning the economy from being an ultra-competitive economy in the international market into one that is unreliable, has very high electricity prices and businesses simply won’t come here because money is so mobile these days.
HOST: To you Albo, have we gone too far, too fast down the renewables route? We saw last week that obviously there was not enough wind power and Pelican Point the gas-fired station was not online. It would have taken four hours for it to kick in. We’ve seen the Western Australian Labor division walking away from campaigning in favour of a renewables target. Has Labor been too keen to impress the sort of Green voters in the inner cities at the expense of basic service delivery?
ALBANESE: Well it’s extraordinary that Christopher Pyne is prepared to talk down South Australia but I’m going to talk South Australia up. I think Adelaide’s a great city. I think South Australia is a great state and I think it is a great economy and the fact is that the playing of politics with this issue is outrageous. In New South Wales, the state where I am from, which relies very much upon coal more than any other state, last week we saw on Friday just down the road from me in Burwood in the middle suburbs, power cut off. We saw that happen on the Central Coast. We saw Tomago shut down effectively for periods of time on Friday and Saturday. Now that’s the equivalent of 12 per cent of the state’s electricity turned off because of shortages in terms of supply. And it wasn’t Labor who privatised electricity in South Australia, who sold the lot off and removed the capacity therefore for the Government to intervene. It’s not Labor that controls the national energy process that reports through to Josh Frydenberg. They made the decision to not turn on Pelican Point in advance.
ALBANESE: They say that themselves Christopher.
PYNE: There’s a whole lot of red herrings there. You have to give someone else a go.
ALBANESE: They say it themselves. I listened to you Christopher and that’s the problem.
PYNE: You are going on a lot longer.
ALBANESE: The South Australians’ rhetoric doesn’t match in terms of Christopher Pyne’s statements.
PYNE: How long is he going to be allowed to talk for?
HOST: Don’t worry, we are going to give you a chance now Chris.
ALBANESE: Poor old Christopher. Give him a break.
PYNE: Honestly he could talk under wet cement. He could talk under dry cement with a mouthful of marbles.
ALBANESE: Poor old Christopher
HOST: That’s what we love.
ALBANESE: Let me go on because people – listeners are turning off when you talk Christopher. They are turning off.
HOST: I’ll turn both of you off if you keep shouting at each other.
HOST: I’ll turn you both off. I always win this game.
HOST: He’s got the button.
HOST: Premier Jay Weatherill has been demanding, he’s written demanding an emission trading scheme. Christopher Pyne, are you guys going to maintain this curious position in Australia whereby it’s the Left of politics demanding a market-based solution to these things? Are you ever going to back an ETS again?
PYNE: Never, because Jay Weatherill’s solution to electricity prices being 40 per cent higher in South Australia and being the most unreliable in the country, causing our economy to be below Tasmania’s as the worst-performing economy in the country, is to put another tax on.
HOST: Never ever? You’ll never back an ETS?
PYNE: No, absolutely not because the solution is not more taxes, which Jay Weatherill already reaches to. The solution is to increase our power supply which means we need clean coal power stations. Northern Power should never have been allowed to close down. There are 700 clean coal power stations in Asia.
HOST: Doesn’t it put the imperative then on the Federal Government to take a more active role, if you are going to deny a market-based solution to these problems?
PYNE: We are taking a very active role. Putting a tax on is not a market-based solution. Please. A market-based solution is increasing supply when demand is increasing and the reality is we export more coal than any other country in the world. In Asia there are 700 clean coal power stations. There are 90 in Japan alone with 45 more being planned in Japan alone. We don’t have one in Australia because of the ideological bent of the Left.
ALBANESE: That’s just nonsense. If the market wanted to build one, it could build one. They are not building one. There hasn’t been a new coal-fired power station built anywhere, built anywhere in Australia. The people in the energy sector themselves as well as those people who finance energy are saying that gas is cheaper, renewables are cheaper and that you’d have to increase power prices by four times if you wanted to go through coal-fired power.
HOST: One of the reasons undeniably that no-one will invest in coal is that Labor, in cahoots, particularly under Julia Gillard’s prime ministership, with the Greens, have been telling anyone who would listen that coal is the work of the devil.
ALBANESE: That’s not true. That’s complete nonsense David and you are better than the other bloke who is trying to interrupt me. The fact is that if people had of wanted to build a coal-fired power station they could have. But the truth is that they are all coming to the end of their life.
ALBANESE: And there is an energy crisis, an energy crisis, that the Federal Government – the Federal Government – needs to get on top of the national energy market. They are not doing so.
PYNE: (inaudible) clean-coal fired power stations. And when you were in power …
ALBANESE: Who’s going to build it? Show me one financier that is going to build that.
PYNE: Oh stop talking and let somebody else have a go.
HOST: Guys, guys, guys. We are going to change subjects now. Just quickly, I want to get a take from both of you on the debate over gold pass travel for former MPs. Do you support the fact that Malcolm Turnbull is moving to abolish it and what do you think of Cory Bernard’s call that it be cut off for former prime ministers who have served less than four years?
PYNE: I think it is ridiculous that it should be cut off for former prime ministers. Obviously I support the Government’s policy of removing the life gold pass. I can’t think of anything less that I would rather do when I retire from Parliament than get on a plane and travel around Australia constantly. But you didn’t let me respond to what he said before, which was full of furphies. When they were in power …
ALBANESE: Oh come on. Come on Christopher.
PYNE: They changed …
ALBANESE: Good try.
PYNE: The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is not allowed to invest in clean coal.
ALBANESE: Good try.
HOST: We are going to run out of time. We could talk about the power industry until 6pm.
ALBANESE: Because they are not clean you dill.
HOST: Albo, Gold passes?
ALBANESE: Will be gone. We got rid of them for all new entrants. Tony Abbott actually got rid of them some three years ago. This announcement, I wonder the fuss is about. They have been gone.
HOST: Yes, but the retrospectivity part of it though?
ALBANESE: Tony Abbott did that I think in 2015.
PYNE: It didn’t pass. It didn’t pass the Senate.
ALBANESE: And it was challenged. But everyone was notified. Everyone was notified and those people who have used it since are getting a bill for its use. It’s a good thing that it’s gone, but for goodness sake, former prime ministers should be entitled to actually continue representative duties.
HOST: It’s just that there’s so many former prime ministers now and both of you can take some credit for that. We are going to have to wrap it up there guys. Albo and Pyne – always the most willing segment on Australian radio.
HOST: No. that’s good. It was about time they started butting heads
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.