Oct 7, 2016

Transcript of television interview – Today Show

Subjects: Brandis misleading Parliament; South Australian blackout

KARL STEFANOVIC: I’m joined now by Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, g’day Josh, and Shadow Transport and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese, good morning Anthony. Nice to see you all.


STEFANOVIC: Josh, first up, how much trouble is George Brandis in; scale of one to ten?

JOSH FRYDENBERG: One; he’s in no trouble at all. I think Albo after the resignation of Sam Dastyari is looking to even up the score, but the reality is George has consulted with the Solicitor-General, he’s said that. He hasn’t misled Parliament and he’s a very effective Attorney-General.

STEFANOVIC: So he’s not going to resign?

FRYDENBERG: He’s certainly not doing that.

STEFANOVIC: So George rejects the advice on the same sex plebiscite, says he consulted the Solicitor-General – claims which were contradicted by the Solicitor-General. Then he went to the former Commonwealth Solicitor-General, David Bennett. He obviously has no faith in the current Solicitor-General at the very least.

FRYDENBERG: Well look he continues to talk to the current Solicitor-General, as well as seeking advice elsewhere. There’s nothing inappropriate about that, especially someone who was a former Solicitor-General and someone who knows the inner aspects of important pieces of law too.

STEFANOVIC: It looks like he’s misled Parliament?

FRYDENBERG: No he hasn’t misled Parliament. He’s made that very clear.

STEFANOVIC: Ok; what he did though was he went to a department store for advice, didn’t like what they had so he went online and shopped around for an opinion that he bought that was his own.

FRYDENBERG: No not at all. He’s consulted with the Solicitor-General, he’s made that very clear. There were notes of that meeting. It was an hour long meeting, it was the topic of conversation and as I said you know, George is a terrific Attorney-General and will continue to serve in that role.

STEFANOVIC: Obviously he has no faith in the current Solicitor-General if he’s shopped around for a different opinion.

FRYDENBERG: Ah look Karl, you can you know talk about this forever but the point is George is doing a fantastic job, he has not misled Parliament…

STEFANOVIC: Is the Solicitor-General doing a fantastic job?

FRYDENBERG: Well, I mean, I’ve got no reason to doubt that but you know it’s up to George Brandis, who works closely with the Solicitor-General, to pass judgement on the Solicitor-General. But in terms of, in terms of that relationship you know they’ve had that meeting, they discussed the issue, he hasn’t misled Parliament.

STEFANOVIC: Ok, one of them has to go don’t they?

ALBANESE: Well one of them has to go because the position is untenable. Either George Brandis or the Solicitor-General are right. They both can’t be when they have diametrically opposed positions as to what was discussed in the meeting. We have an Attorney-General who isn’t taking the advice of the Solicitor-General, who’s shopping around for alternative advice – an Attorney-General who used to give himself advice when he was Shadow Attorney-General.

This is a farcical situation from the first law officer of the land who clearly can’t get on with the second law officer of the land.

STEFANOVIC: He’s poking a bear at the very least. Let’s move on anyway. Anthony, the ‘budgie nine’ has been cautioned and discharged, escaping any jail time, just a little slap on the wrist for the boys. Should Christopher Pyne’s staffer go?

ALBANESE: Look that’s a matter for Christopher but I’m not into picking on staffers. Staffers are loyal to us and I expect that Christopher will have words with him though. There is a judgement issue here.

STEFANOVIC: Josh, have you spoken to Chris?

FRYDENBERG: I spoke to him, not about this but about other matters; obviously what happened in South Australia last week with the electricity. But you know what has happened with these nine young Australians is they are on their way home and that’s a great thing. But it’s a reminder to everyone you’ve got to be respectful of the values, the customs, the laws of other countries because what might seem like a bit of joke here in Australia is not treated that way overseas.

STEFANOVIC: Just on South Australia, were renewables to blame for what happened with the power blackouts?

FRYDENBERG: Well look, there’s more work to be done but we said what happened in South Australia was a weather event. There were 80 000 lightning strikes that took place in South Australia, a 1 in 50 year weather event. But there are bigger questions Karl, about the impact that more wind and more solar is having on the stability of the system.

STEPHANOVIC: Why did the Prime Minister buy into it, why did he play politics with a natural disaster then?

FRYDENBERG: Well we’ve got to keep the lights on. He’s not playing politics, he’s reaffirming to Australians that his priority is energy security and nobody thanks us when nearly 2 million Australians lose their power, people are stuck in lifts, there’s grid lock on the roads, people are locked into their own homes in the dark – that is not a good situation in modern Australia.

And that is why today the Energy Ministers from the States, from the Territories and of course from the Commonwealth are coming together to keep the lights on. We make no apologies for that, we want to lower emissions future, we support renewables, we’ve got a bipartisan legislated target.

ALBANESE: Well what the Government should apologise for Josh is playing politics with this issue. We had a 1 in 50 year storm event and the Government for days went out there and tried to imply that somehow South Australia’s renewable energy target was responsible. It was not.

FRYDENBERG: But Albo, let me tell you mate, if you increase wind and solar…

ALBANESE: Hang on, that had nothing to do with this, nothing to do with this whatsoever. So you shouldn’t conflate the two. Energy security should not be linked to this event.

FRYDENBERG: Albo, you’re the Infrastructure Minister, I’m the Energy Minister. I understand…

ALBANESE: Absolutely…

FRYDENBERG: Sorry, you’re Shadow Infrastructure Minister…

ALBANESE: Well someone’s got to run infrastructure in this country Josh.

STEFANOVIC: Just elevated.

FRYDENBERG: Can I say, we’ve had the words from the experts, there are serious concerns, you’ve got to keep the lights on.

ALBANESE: And that’s about transmission not generation and I hope you know that.

STEFANOVIC: One final one before we go, I’ve managed to dig up some vision of Christopher Pyne, he’s on holiday this week. I’ve got some vision of him on the beach in the US. There he is, the big fella. Josh anything to say about that?

FRYDENBERG: It’s enough to make you choke on your weeties this morning I tell you, certainly.

STEFANOVIC: Certainly.

ALBANESE: Think of the viewers, think of the viewers. Televisions just got turned off so it doesn’t matter what we say.

STEFANOVIC: Hey, thanks Josh, thanks Albo.