Subjects: The Albanese Government’s energy and gas policy trainwreck; the Prime Minister’s broken promise on a $275 cut to your power bills; gas supply; the Prime Minister’s stunt to recall Parliament; nuclear energy; River Murray flood peak.
Great to be joined here on Flow FM by the Leader of the Opposition in the Federal Parliament, Peter Dutton. Peter, Merry Christmas to you and your team and thanks for joining us.
My pleasure Rikki. Merry Christmas to you too mate. It’s almost here. I think it’s been a long year for a lot of people, but it will be a nice time to spend with family and friends, I hope.
It’s certainly been a long year and probably one you weren’t happy with at a federal level in the sense that you were no longer in government. But there were also state elections in a couple of states and a big one in New South Wales as well. So, the show certainly goes on.
It certainly does and I think everybody leads a pretty busy life now. There are just so many elements and technology demands that demand your attention pretty constantly. You’re right, I mean, it’s never fun to lose an election, but that’s part of the cycle. We’ve got to rebuild, we’ve got to hear those messages and we have to have the policies that are really relevant to people by the time of the next federal election in late 2024 or early 2025.
Well, the government, the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese sought to leave a bit of an imprint in people’s minds just before Christmas on energy prices. Why has the Opposition voted against this package on Thursday?
Well, there are two elements to the package. One is providing financial support which we’re in favour of. The second element is a price cap which we’re not in favour of because it doesn’t work anywhere in the world. As the CEO of Santos pointed out yesterday, this is the stuff that you’d see in somewhere like Venezuela or in a communist market.
So a price cap on beef, or a price cap on wheat, or lithium, or gas just doesn’t make any sense and it’s actually going to have a perverse impact, where ultimately people are going to pay more for their electricity because of this Bill.
We wanted to split the Bill in two and support the assistance package. The government didn’t want to do that because they were playing politics, that’s the Prime Ministers want, there’s nothing we can do about that, they have the numbers in the Parliament. So when it was packaged together we couldn’t support it.
But obviously people, I think, are a bit bewildered. I mean the budget was only just in October and in the budget the government predicts after two years of their policies that power prices will go up by 56 per cent, and what they’re doing here is they’re actually capping the wholesale price, if you like, or capping the producer’s price, as opposed to the price of electricity or the price of retail electricity that people would pay. So there’s still a potential for gouging and an increase in prices – in fact the government predicts that even after this change, your power bill is still going to go up very significantly – and that’s why we opposed it.
Peter, I’m recalling just from when we have discussions here on Flow, you mentioned wheat and other commodities in the farming sector, we always talk about supply and demand. Just refresh my memory, didn’t in your party, in government do something to help drive up the amount of gas on the markets, which actually drove prices down?
We certainly did and it’s interesting to look at the graph over the last five or six years. Governments always have shocks to the system. The Prime Minister wants to say ‘oh, this is all because of Ukraine’, but the problems were there in the marketplace well before Ukraine, people know that. Even in Germany they were having blackouts before Ukraine and similarly in California. It’s like any market Rikki, if you take supply out, at a time when demand is increasing, then you will end up with an increase in prices.
We know that in the budget the government funded these environmental activist groups to take action against some of the companies who were trying to bring on new gas reserves. All that means is that you drive prices up and it makes it harder for that product to come to market and ultimately you get hit in the hip pocket.
The bigger concern at the moment is that a lot of manufacturers – and we’re trying desperately to increase manufacturing in our country so that we can add value to the raw products that we produce – they’re just going to say, ‘look, this is too hard, we can’t have blackouts in our foundry or our manufacturing business. We can’t pay the highest prices for energy in the world. We’ll just take our operation offshore where the electricity is reliable’. You have a situation where we’re not paying those huge prices and it means no gain in emissions reductions because they’re just emitting those emissions into the atmosphere in Malaysia or Vietnam or China or somewhere else. That’s why I just don’t understand the Prime Minister’s approach at the moment and I think those businesses are really going to cop it in the eye over the next couple of years.
Well Peter, you’ve quite right. You know we’ve been talking here on Flow about fuel and energy security for some time and when we look at the longer range view, there’s now been a discussion I believe, the Coalition’s on board with the idea of having the nuclear conversation. I see yesterday both the Energy Minister in New South Wales, Matt Kean and Dom Perrottet, the Premier, both saying they’re open to that conversation. Indeed, South Australian Labor Premier Peter Malinauskas was open to it as well, but he got slapped down by the Prime Minister.
Yeah, look Rikki, I just think we have to have a mature debate. If you look at the small modular reactors now, who’s using them? Canada, France, you look at countries like the United States, China, now Germany talking about it, because if renewables are coming into the system, we’ve got to be able to firm them up. Part of the problem that you’re seeing huge increases in your power prices at the moment is because of the renewables coming into the system. They need to be firmed up so that you can have power of a night time. There is no sense pretending anymore that the battery technology exists. I hope that it comes along tomorrow and I hope that there’s some new technology that can store renewable energy, but it doesn’t exist now.
That’s why all of those other comparable countries to ours, like Canada, and the US, and the UK, and others, use nuclear because it’s zero emissions, and the small modular reactor you can plug and play if you like. You can put it into the existing distribution network as the coal fired power generation comes off.
With Liddell closing in 2023, and a lot of the companies we’ve spoken to this week really believe there is a high likelihood of blackouts within our system, particularly in the southern states in the next 12, 18 months, that period to the next five years, that is devastating for families and for small businesses. If you’re a local butcher or a local IGA running cold rooms, you know they’re expensive to run and if the power prices are going to continue to go up, because we’re paying for all of these renewables coming into the system, then I think people will look more seriously at nuclear.
I think the trouble is for some Australians, they think of the nuclear technology from the 1970s or 1980s, but that’s like thinking about, an XA Falcon and comparing that to a Mercedes Benz that you’re driving off the showroom floor today – it’s just chalk and cheese. The safety, the ability that it’s producing energy at a cheaper rate than what we can now and it’s zero emissions.
To make the government’s renewable energy policy work they’ve got to roll out – believe this or not – 28,000 kilometres of poles and wires through people’s properties and through national parks and I just think it’s a pipe dream. I don’t think it’s going to happen and they’ve got this sort of ideological pursuit. The Prime Minister, as he did with the Premier in South Australia, just closes the debate down straight away and starts this scare campaign. Even Dan Walton, the head of the AWU, the Australian Workers Union, has been strongly in favour of nuclear, as has Bob Hawke and John Howard and many other people for a long time.
Peter Dutton, the Leader of the Opposition, talking with you about energy. To what extent do you think that this sudden recall of Parliament yesterday, the 15th of December, was an attempt by the government to just cover over the fact that their headlong rush into renewables is costing people a lot of money?
Well, I think they panicked Rikki. I think that’s what’s happened. They wanted, you know, a big bang, you know, ‘look, we had to recall Parliament, we know that you’re paying more for your power prices, and here we are recalling Parliament to do something about it’. But the Prime Minister promised on 97 occasions before the last election that he had a plan to reduce power prices by $275. He’s never mentioned that figure, not even once since the election and they’re not even pretending now that they can bring power prices down with what they did in Parliament yesterday, they’re just saying that they won’t go up by as much.
Well, I don’t even believe that to be honest. I think when you look at what they did in the budget, they gave about $10 million to the Environmental Defenders Office. This is an activist group which is taking vexatious court action against new gas projects. So they’re slowing gas projects down because the Labor Party just don’t believe in gas because it’s a fossil fuel. They took $31 million out of the Cooper-Adavale Basin Plan and they cut $23 million from the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program. So, there’s additional gas that can come into the system and drive prices down, but they’ve taken deliberate decisions in the budget, only a month ago, to try and stop gas coming into the system.
You’ve now got Chris Bowen – who remember in the Rudd-Gillard years was the mastermind behind FuelWatch and GroceryWatch – he’s now in charge of this policy. He’s suggesting that the government’s going to give out cheaper loans. So, we’re going to go back to the ‘Rudd Bank’ days, cheaper loans to households to get them to throw out their gas heaters and gas cookers and ovens and gas appliances otherwise, to replace them with electric appliances.
I mean this is the stuff of the Greens, not the Labor Party, and the modern Labor Party is so far left on this stuff that I just think we’re going to have reliability problems, which is going to make it difficult for homes and small businesses and bigger businesses, and the prices are going to continue to go up and up, whilst they’re hell bent on policy that’s ideologically driven and not in the best interests of our country.
Well Peter, we’re running headlong into a Christmas break very soon. Anne Webster, the Member for Mallee indicated she’s keen to have you visit – I know you never get a break as an Opposition Leader – up where the flood peaks are hitting in Mildura at the moment and soon heading into South Australia. Is there a chance we might get you in those parts of Australia?
Mate, there definitely is. She’s spoken to me a few times. I talked with Tony Pasin yesterday as well, just going through some of the projections of peak periods and what people are up to and the preparations people are making. So, I’m keen to come down at the right time. I don’t want to come and interrupt the activities that the people have, you know, the preparations, and people are exhausted coming into Christmas as well.
So, we’ll get the timing right and come down and have a proper look at what people have gone through and try and provide some encouragement instead of getting in the way, which is always the balancing act here. But I know people are doing it tough at the moment. There’s a lot of stress and pressure, particularly coming up to Christmas, which should be a time of joy and excitement and relaxation, but for a lot of families this Christmas it just won’t be. So, our thoughts and our prayers are with those people in particular.
A good note to finish on Peter Dutton, Leader of the Opposition in the Federal Parliament. Thanks for joining us today on Flow. Merry Christmas and we’ll catch you in the new year.
Thank you, Ricky, to you and to your listeners, too mate, take care. All the best.