Subjects: Asylum seekers; energy policy.
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, has this morning announced that immigration numbers are the lowest they have been since 2008. There has been a drop, in fact, of 20,000 in the past 12 months.
Joining me now we have Christopher Pyne from Adelaide and Anthony Albanese is right here. Good morning to you both.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
JEFFREYS: Anthony, I’ll start with you. You toughened your own stance on borders this week. What motivated that?
ALBANESE: Nothing at all, it’s the ALP policy. That’s been our policy since our National Conference in 2015. It’s as simple as that.
JEFFREYS: Well, you went ahead and said that Labor got it wrong in the past, Malcolm Turnbull has got it right?
ALBANESE: No, I didn’t say that. I said that in terms of the boat arrivals that occurred under us in government, we made mistakes. I’ve said that many times. So has Bill Shorten, so has Labor – acknowledged that.
JEFFREYS: You also went on to say that Malcolm Turnbull has stopped the boats and that there is truth in that, and that’s a good thing.
ALBANESE: The fact is, that we are not having boat arrivals coming to Australia now. That’s a simple statement of fact. What people want from their politicians is less partisanship, what they want is to acknowledge facts. I also was very critical though, of the ongoing detention of people on Manus and Nauru who aren’t being given any hope. We have seen suicides, we’ve seen a range of mental health conditions being identified and the Government has got that element of the policy wrong. And they need to find permanent settlement in third countries for those people.
JEFFREYS: So these figures out this morning, a drop of 20,000 in the past 12 months, is that a good result?
ALBANESE: Of course it’s a good result, if there is more integrity in the system. This is, bear in mind, a drop of 20,000 on the Government’s own figures last year. They have been in government for five years. If they have toughened up the system which they themselves were in charge of, to ensure more integrity in the system, then of course that’s a good thing.
JEFFREYS: The numbers peaked under Labor with 190,000. Going forward, and if Labor wins Government at the next election, are you personally in favour of boat turn backs?
ALBANESE: The fact is that’s a policy that’s been put in place. That’s a policy that’s in the Labor platform. I support the Labor platform. What we have on our side of politics is a process leading up to National Conference, where we determine our policies and then we go forward.
JEFFREYS: Okay, let’s move on to energy, that’s been the other big story around this week. The ACCC of course released a scathing review of our national energy market, along with a suite of recommendations to bring down prices for customers.
Christopher, will the Government subsidise the construction of new coal-fired power plants?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The ACCC didn’t suggest the subsidy of a coal-fired power station.
What it said was that the National Energy Guarantee, which is the Government’s policy, is the best chance we have to have affordable energy, reliable energy and fulfil our responsibilities under the Paris Agreement to reduce our carbon emissions.
The ACCC basically endorsed exactly what the Government is trying to do – not being ideological, being technologically agnostic, supporting all forms of energy production that produces despatchable power at lower prices. Not being ideological about picking one over the other. That’s what the ACCC has recommended and that’s exactly what the Government is doing. And can I say on the borders, the truth is that you can trust the Coalition on border protection and on immigration. What was proven in the past is you can’t trust Labor on borders and you still won’t be able to in the future.
JEFFREYS: Back to power, Malcolm Turnbull has left the door open to subsidies for new coal fired power plants. I think people want to know what the plan is, Christopher. How are you going to reduce their power bills?
PYNE: We have a plan and that’s going to the COAG meeting very soon, the Council of Australian Governments. It’s called the National Energy Guarantee. It’s already reducing prices, bringing more gas into the market, which we did last year, is reducing prices right across the eastern states, prices are starting to come down. We have actually turned the corner. What the ACCC said was that – with more support for the energy guarantee prices could come down by 24 to 25 per cent over the next few years. Now that is an amazing outcome. That can only happen with the Government’s policy of not picking winners, but supporting all technological outcomes that put more power into the system, more despatchable power. That will make it cheaper.
JEFFREYS: What about the tactics of the energy providers, the dodgy tactics, they were laid bare in this ACCC Report as well, is it time for a Royal Commission?
PYNE: Look, people reach for the Royal Commission far too easily in Australia. Royal Commissions have their place, but governments have got their policies. We have the right policy. We just need to see it being supported. Obviously the energy companies, if they have been behaving badly, that’s why we have the ACCC. It’s why you have ASIC. It’s why you have all these institutions that regulate them. A Royal Commission sounds great, but it actually slows down the process. Maybe there might be such a thing down the track, but we are focussing on the National Energy Guarantee. That will reduce prices and bring more reliability to the system.
ALBANESE: The ACCC report identified – there were 56 recommendations. What it identified was a concentration of market power. And it spoke about various measures you could do, to allow new entrants into the system. Interestingly, in spite of some of the public debate, what Rod Sims has said, is that no one mentioned to him new coal fired power plants. No one in the business community is interested. This is a fantasy of Tony Abbott and the far right of the Liberal Party. And it’s holding Malcolm Turnbull back from a sensible policy debate.
JEFFREYS: Okay, we have got to go. I want to know in one word, Anthony, yes or no, have you read the report, the ACCC report?
ALBANESE: I’ve read the recommendations of the Report.
JEFFREYS: Have you read the report?
ALBANESE: I’ve read the recommendations of the Report.
PYNE: His boss hasn’t.
JEFFREYS: Bill Shorten did admit to not reading that yesterday.
ALBANESE: I’ve read the recommendations of the report.
JEFFREYS: Well, you’ve got 400 pages to get through over the weekend, so a little bit of light reading for you. Anthony and Christopher thank you very much for joining us this morning.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.