Subjects: Energy policy; Great Barrier Reef; Malcolm Turnbull, National Integrity Commission; Emma Husar.
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Well, the fate of the Turnbull Government’s National Energy Guarantee will be discussed today at a crucial meeting of State and Federal governments and this morning there are warnings of more blackouts and higher prices if Labor premiers block the power plan. I’m joined now by Labor’s Anthony Albanese and, in Adelaide, Christopher Pyne. Good morning to you both.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Sylvia.
JEFFREYS: Christopher, let’s be up front about it. It is not likely that you will reach an agreement on this today with the state leaders. So what’s next?
PYNE: Well, I think we will win an in-principle agreement from the state premiers at COAG about the NEG because ….
JEFFREYS: That’s being optimistic, isn’t it?
PYNE: No, I think that is what a lot of people are saying. Victoria is really the only hold out state and I think we can work and negotiate with them. I think we will get in-principle agreement because everyone wants affordable, reliable and responsible electricity in Australia. We want to meet our international commitments. We want lower prices, which we can achieve, and we want it to be reliable in terms of baseload power. And then I think we will get the support next week of the Parliament, of the party room and then a final tick-off from the premiers and I think we will achieve a great outcome.
JEFFREYS: So what you’re saying is there is room for compromise in order to get Daniel Andrews across the line?
PYNE: Well, negotiation is about negotiating outcomes, ensuring you don’t give away the core things that you want, but making sure that you get an outcome. So, of course, we are always happy to talk. But there are some baselines. We want affordable power. We want reliable power. We want it to be responsible and we are not going to just hand the policy over to the Greens, which is what the Daniel Andrews Government seems to want to do. But I think we will get there and that’s what voters want. They want, actually, governments to work together to achieve outcomes.
JEFFREYS: Voters want a plan, they want it in place, and they want it urgently. Anthony, I’m sure you agree with that. So why is Labor getting in the way? Why are Labor premiers blocking this plan?
ALBANESE: They are not, of course. What they are trying to do is negotiate in good faith. As late as yesterday afternoon, Annastacia Palaszczuk still hadn’t got the documentation that she had requested and the Government goes to a COAG meeting today saying: “Well, we can’t actually agree to anything finally because we go to our party room next Tuesday”. So this isn’t leadership. And the problem that the Government has is that Tony Abbott and the forces around him don’t want a solution, they want an argument.
JEFFREYS: OK. So Annastacia Palaszczuk doesn’t have the documents on the day of the meeting. Daniel Andrews is digging his heels in. Is Malcolm Turnbull a bad negotiator Christopher Pyne?
PYNE: Well, Anthony says that but you wouldn’t want to believe everything Anthony says. The truth is the Queensland Government has been working closely with the Federal Government for 12 months, not just today. They are not just getting the documents yesterday. They have been working for 12 months with the Energy Board and the various organisations that we have established. Every state and territory has, including Queensland. That’s why they know exactly what the National Energy Guarantee will do. And if you speak to anybody across industry, they will all say that they want the certainty of the National Energy Guarantee. It’s time to stop arguing and give the consumers of Australia and the businesses of Australia affordable, reliable and responsible power and that’s what we’re trying to do. Labor wants to have a fight.
ALBANESE: You’ve given them five years of uncertainty Christopher. That is the problem.
PYNE: Labor wants to keep having a fight. The public don’t want it. The public want us to get on and reduce their power prices and that’s what we’re doing.
ALBANESE: The Government was elected and said we will get rid of the carbon price and it will all be okay. What we saw was that …
PYNE: Well, prices dropped 14 per cent.
ALBANESE: Wholesale prices doubled. We’ve had five years of uncertainty.
PYNE: Carbon tax! After we abolished the carbon tax, prices dropped immediately.
ALBANESE: Keep your arguments for the party room Christopher, because the big argument has been within the Liberal Party and because of that, the whole of the country has been held back.
JEFFREYS: I want to talk about Malcolm Turnbull and his negotiation skills and I want to talk specifically about the grant, the half a billion dollar grant, that was given to the Barrier Reef Foundation. Christopher, was that a captain’s call for Malcolm Turnbull? Was that his decision?
PYNE: No. It went through the normal processes of the Expenditure Review Committee.
JEFFREYS: There was no tender.
PYNE: It went through the normal processes of the Expenditure Review Committee. What we wanted to do was get $440 million to support the Great Barrier Reef to help repair it after the damage done to it by Labor. It went on to the endangered watch list of the UNESCO under Labor…
ALBANESE: There isn’t even one. There isn’t a watch list. There isn’t a watch list. There isn’t one. It is just a lie.
PYNE: We wanted to get that money out there doing its work. And that is what Malcolm Turnbull has done. It certainly wasn’t his call. It was the call of the Government through the Expenditure Review Committee. And it’s amazing to me that Labor is criticising trying to fix the Great Barrier Reef.
ALBANESE: This is red hot Christopher. You can just keep talking to hide from the fact.
PYNE: Sylvia asked me a question.
ALBANESE: This is an argument for a National Integrity Commission. This is one of the reasons why we need one because I’m concerned about the fish on the Great Barrier Reef, but I’m also concerned about the fishy smell that’s coming from this stinking agreement whereby the Prime Minister and Josh Frydenberg sit down with someone and they give them a grant. They didn’t ask for it. There was no tender process. They had six people employed at the time. And they got $444 million of taxpayers’ money – has been paid upfront, upfront, not as it’s required. This stinks.
PYNE: What stinks…
ALBANESE: And there needs to be a proper examination of this …
PYNE: At least you cared about Emma Husar’s staff and Emma Husar’s story …
ALBANESE: A rotting fish stinks from the head and this stinks from Malcolm Turnbull’s head. It stinks.
PYNE: Your Leader of the Opposition claims that he knew nothing about what was going on in Emma Husar’s office. At least you said you knew about it.
ALBANESE: It stinks.
JEFFREYS: We are speaking in different tangents here on different subjects, so let’s move in the same direction here. I think we know that fund, that grant, is going to dominate Question Time when Parliament resumes. So we will watch that space. But I want to talk about the findings of the internal investigation into the accusations around Emma Husar, Labor MP Emma Husar. They are handed down today. Anthony, will they be made public?
ALBANESE: Well, I’m not sure of all of the circumstances around the basis, for example, of how the staff members made submissions.
JEFFREYS: But yes or no? Will the report be made public?
ALBANESE: That’s not a decision for me Sylvia.
JEFFREYS: Well should it be made public?
ALBANESE: I don’t know what the circumstances are in which people have come forward. Sometimes when you have inquiries, people come forward on the basis of confidentiality. I’m not sure of all of those circumstances and frankly neither are you or Christopher. What we know is that Emma Husar has said that she won’t contest the next election and what we know is that the Government has tried to make this the big issue rather than the $444 million grant.
ALBANESE: And they say they know nothing about Barnaby Joyce. I mean for goodness sake!
JEFFREYS: Christopher, should the report be made public?
PYNE: Well look, what I find remarkable about this Sylvia is that Anthony Albanese was at least honest enough to say that he knew about this weeks and weeks ago and his leader, Bill Shorten, was pretending that he had only heard about it when it was published in the newspaper.
JEFFREYS: The question was should the report be made public?
PYNE: Well I don’t know what the …
ALBANESE: And Barnaby Joyce’s report about the woman who alleged that she had been assaulted by Barnaby Joyce? Well, should that be made public?
PYNE: You’ve had a go. You’ve had a go. The question of whether the report should be made public, I don’t understand the internal Labor Party processes and, quite frankly, I don’t want to. Certainly the story around Emma Husar has been dominating the media. And what’s amazing is that Bill Shorten should want to clear the air with this. He should want to release the report, clear the air, get on with it. It’s amazing to me that he pretends, or is saying, that he’s never heard of any of these stories until they appeared in the newspaper. Anthony Albanese said he’s known about it for months. Tony Burke says he has known about for months. Why isn’t anybody telling Bill Shorten?
ALBANESE: As everyone in the building knew about Barnaby Joyce.
JEFFREYS: We are out of time Christopher and Anthony.
PYNE: What a pity!
JEFFREYS: Plenty up for discussion next week, clearly. Thank you so much for coming in this morning.
ALBANESE: We could come back after half past seven.
PYNE: We could. Let’s do it again.
JEFFREYS: I’m sure you will, it just won’t be here on the Today Show. Have a great weekend – time is of the essence, plenty up for discussion.
ALBANESE: Come on.
JEFFREYS: Thank you very much to both of you for joining us.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.