Topics: Labor’s new electricity tax, Australian Antarctic Strategy
Greg Hunt, thank you very much for your time. Now, Labor has announced its plans to tackle climate change through an emissions trading scheme that will phase in, in steps.
Are you being honest with voters when you say this is an electricity tax given Labor says electricity will be specifically excluded from its plans?
With respect this is an electricity tax and Labor has said there will be a specific electricity scheme.
This is a carbon tax which operates as an electricity tax. The whole purpose, the whole intent, the whole design is to drive up the cost of electricity.
What we need to know from them is, how much, and why they won't release their modelling.
But the nature, the intent, the purpose is electricity, electricity, electricity – and then you would add gas, gas and gas to what it means for families.
And we know that, they know that, they just simply need to be honest about it.
With the policy documents they've released, I'm not sure if you've read them but they actually say electricity won't be in the ETS …
I have indeed.
…that will have a baseline intensity approach and how that works is that less efficient power generators can buy permits from more efficient generators. There should be no additional cost to households.
No, that's absurd. Under no possible conception is that the case.
They've already conceded today that there will be an impact. Mark Butler was trying to say it's one or two cents.
The fact is their own modelling of their own policy when they were last in government showed for this range of target an over $200 per tonne carbon price. That's a 78 per cent increase in wholesale electricity prices.
And it makes absolute sense because we know how an electricity tax and a carbon tax works.
If you're going to have any impact through price mechanisms, you have to drive the price up massively.
And they are using a price mechanism to have an impact – and the only way that that works is it drives up electricity costs enormously.
And they know it, we know it, the public knows it and that's why we've heard from the Australian Industry Group, we've heard from the National Farmers Federation, we've also heard from the Minerals Council, that this is going to drive up not just the cost of living, but the cost of business at the very time that firms like Arrium would see this as the last thing that they need.
We've heard from the Business Council as well that says this could be the basis for some bipartisanship.
Just on this issue though, Labor is going to allow companies to buy permits offshore as you know.
International permits can trade very cheaply, well under $1 a tonne. This is where this three cents, I suppose, comes into the argument.
This is what other countries are doing as well. I mean, China is rolling out a national ETS next year as well. I mean, would you say that they are introducing a great big electricity tax too?
Well, I think you find that they do it in a massively different way. And let's see how many tonnes are actually covered, how many permits are given away from free and what is the requirement on individual firms.
Labor made this mistake last time. They ended up imposing not just the heaviest but the broadest carbon tax in the world.
That's why we saw electricity prices skyrocket last time and when we took the carbon tax away we saw the largest drop in electricity prices in Australian history.
They said we'd never do it, we'd never be able to achieve the pass through of the savings – the ACCC confirmed that 100 per cent of the savings have passed through by each and every retailer. So, that I think is a demonstration.
Last time they drove up electricity prices, this time they'll do it again.
Getting to your rhetoric there about electricity prices skyrocketing, they – prices went up 10 per cent, came down 10 per cent or thereabouts. The price under Labor was $23 a tonne, what they're talking about here is less than $1 tonne.
So how would that actually reduce emissions in Australia?
They're sticking to the same target you've got between now and 2020, aren't they, a five per cent reduction so they're not talking about any more of a reduction than you are.
So, how are they actually going to reduce emissions if they run this pretence that it won't cost anything?
When Labor was last in government, the Treasury modelling of their target range on their watch in their government was of a carbon tax of $209 a tonne. A wholesale electricity price impact of 78 per cent. And those were their figures on their watch of their policy.
And so those are the fundamental starting points and if they have different modelling, let's produce it, let's see it.
But Mark Butler today was asked eight times would he rule out electricity price rises and he wouldn't answer once and I think that says everything.
He's also put forward in this policy a plan for what he's calling a just transition out of coal-fired power, or orderly transition away from some of these coal-fired power stations.
He points to the announcement in Port Augusta in South Australia, the Alinta Power Stations that only recently announced they're closing down – I think the Government has offered some money to help the 450 workers affected there – do you accept there is a need for a more orderly process on this?
Well, we’ll be fascinated to see what their actual policy is. This is a case where they've announced a renewable energy target but can you tell us what the mechanism is between 2020 and 2030? Nobody can because they haven't said what it is.
They've announced they have a vague aspiration to do something in the power sector to close down power stations but there's no actual mechanism.
What they have said is the Government won't put in money, well that means that's the second hit on consumers because people will have to pay for that through their electricity bills so that's a second thing which they have to set out.
But very simply Mr Shorten, how much will people pay for your carbon tax, your electricity tax and how much will they pay for this process?
Because you've ruled out government funding, that means it's not going to happen for free.
Just be up front. People are not silly and they don't need to be taken for granted – just be honest.
Okay, on coal-fired power stations closing down, what is the Government's approach on this, what sort of assistance are you offering?
Well look, what have we actually seen? We've seen eight out of our top 12 most emissions intensive power stations go through a managed transition – that's the process of bringing the Renewable Energy Target in – that is actually working.
When eight of the top 12 stations have either – in terms of emissions intensity – have either retired or announced times for their retirement, as the Renewable Energy Target comes on board, that is the managed transition.
What we see here is that you've got a double whammy on consumers – and electricity tax and then they won't tell us exactly how much but there is a second levy which will have to be paid – because if it's not government, it's always consumers through electricity prices.
And so we have a system that's working, we've just announced to the United Nations – I had the honour of representing Australia there only on Friday whilst we signed the Paris Agreement – that Australia is not just meeting but we're beating our 2020 targets by 78 million tonnes.
The Labor Party and all of their fellow travellers said we would never close the 750 million tonne gap they left us.
We did, we're now beating that not just by the 750 million tonnes required to close the gap to hit our 2020 targets but we're beating it my 78.
So, our work is doing its task, achieving the outcomes.
They failed last time – Pink Batts, Green Loans, Cash for Clunkers – and they poured $5.5 billion into brown coal electricity generators – incredible stuff, they gave them $5.5 billion.
Now they're going to hit the taxpayer once through a higher electricity tax and twice for this ill-defined and unmodelled second attempt to drive up electricity prices.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt, we will have to leave it there but thank you for joining us from Hobart this afternoon.
Just whilst we're here, I know you'll be delighted that we've just announced $255 million for the largest increase in Australia's Antarctic Program ever.
Well, I'm glad to hear it and yes, we will take a look at that as well. Thank you very much Minister we have to go right now. Appreciate your time.