LAURA JAYES: Joining me now live is the Trade Minister Steve Ciobo from the Gold Coast. Minister thanks so much for your time, has their too much jaw boning and not enough strong arming when it comes to Liddell? What do you think of this idea?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, the Government's got a very clear policy Laura, we're very focused on making sure we make energy more reliable, and more affordable for Australian families, that's why we've got the National Energy Guarantee, that's why the Coalition has a clear policy to reduce power prices over time, which we know that the National Energy Guarantee will do. And frankly, it's in stark contrast to the alternative, the alternative is Labor's policy, which will see energy prices continue to increase, and see unreliability continue to increase, and see unreliability continue to increase. Now, we've made clear with respect to Liddell that if Alinta was to purchase Liddell that should absolutely be on the cards, but ultimately, governments should be exceptionally cautious about intervening in this space. Let's see what the market actually determines. We hope there's potentially a prospective buyer, in terms of Alinta, so let's just see what happens.
LAURA JAYES: I think the problem is, that AGL has shown no willingness to want to sell Liddell, even with two potential buyers. One being Alinta, and the other being Delta, so, should Tony Abbott's idea be given serious consideration?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well I think it's still too early to tell, basically. What I'm saying, is we've got to make decisions –
LAURA JAYES: So you're willing to consider compulsory acquisition of those assets, at Liddell?
STEVEN CIOBO: No, what I'm saying is it's too early to tell, we know that we've got a prospective bidder, we know we've got a prospective seller, so let's just see how the market plays that through at this point of time. Clearly there is going to be a period time where there will be insufficient generation, if Liddell is moth balled. Nobody wants that outcome, so the Government's made it very clear we will not tolerate that outcome. So, we have Alinta who's expressed interest as well as potentially other parties. Let's just see where they get to before the government starts sticking its nose in it.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, fair enough, but at what point then do you consider a compulsory take over once Liddell rules out selling altogether?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, let's just see what Liddell has to say, what AGL has to say about Liddell. As I said, at the moment, we know that there is a prospective purchaser. We know that there is a prospective seller. We also know though, that the Coalition does have a clear plan to make sure we keep driving additional output in the energy sector. And we also know that Labor does not have a sustainable policy in this space. Their policy is to say, let's go to 50%, 60%, 70% renewable power, with no way of ensuring grid-wide stability that comes off the back of the intermittent supply that renewables often provide.
LAURA JAYES: Sure, but what I'm trying to establish here Minister, is Tony Abbott once again, off on a frolic of his own, suggesting that a compulsory acquisition should be an option, or is this something that's seriously being considered around the Cabinet table?
STEVEN CIOBO: What I'm saying very clearly, Laura, is that the Government thinks that, it's certainly my view, that it's too early to start intervening. We allow the prospective purchaser and the prospective bidder to keep talking, and let's see what happens at the end of that process. That's what I'm making – I couldn't speak any more clearly or plainly than that.
LAURA JAYES: well, you just said we will not tolerate the closure of Liddell in 2022. What does that mean?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, we can't tolerate having a gap in supply of energy which would lead to blackouts, potentially in New South Wales, as well as potential consequent impacts in other states through the national electricity market. So, what I'm saying, very clearly, is that the government if focused on making sure that we have supply arrangements in place. We've demonstrated; take for example, Laura, the Government's strong and decisive action around the Australian domestic gas market. Now, we talked decisions there, the Prime Minister lead the way, taking tough decisions through the Australian domestic gas supply mechanisms, to make sure that we could ensure that there was onshore supply of domestic gas for Australians. Now, that is a clear demonstration of this Government's track record of making the big calls to make sure that Australians' needs are serviced in the gas market, or indeed, for example, when it comes to power generation.
LAURA JAYES: But is that the government's position, that you won't allow Liddell to close in 2022? That sounds like, well, what is it, what is the Government's position here to force them to sell, a compulsory acquisition? Are they on the table?
STEVEN CIOBO: The Government's position is precisely what I said, which is that we need to let the prospective purchaser and the prospective seller keep discussing this and seeing where that takes them. That is, the process that we are currently in now and I'm not going to short circuit that, I'm not gonna fast track it. They're in discussions, let those discussions continue.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, so 30 Newspolls in a row, Malcolm Turnbull's legacy, now just like it was Tony Abbott's, how have you been marking the occasion today?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I've been very focused on the Commonwealth Games and focussing on continuing to drive tourism into Australia. We've had a number of tourism initiatives that we've been driving, but I'll also make a remark about 30 Newspolls that many people are focused on. And that is, for 30 Newspolls, Bill Shorten has been behind Malcolm Turnbull as preferred PM. For 30 Newspolls Bill Shorten and the Labor Party, continued to trail, in terms of preferred prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition. So, you know, I think the Labor Party, frankly, has gotten very cocky. The Labor Party are running around crying as if they think they've already got the next election in the bag. That's why we start to see reckless economic policies like $200 billion+ of new taxes that Labor's putting out there. This is a Labor Party that frankly, is drunk on the prospect that they think that they've already won the next election, and we're going to make sure that they don't do that.
LAURA JAYES: Minister, we've seen a big show of support for the Prime Minister today in terms of him staying on in that leadership role, staying on as Prime Minister, but is that blind loyalty all the way to the next election? I mean if your fortunes don't improve, at what point do you revisit this? Because, as I said in my, editorial today, I think your risk in the Liberal Party is, not if you lose the next election, but you could lose a whole host of talent from the front bench, and that could leave you without the bones to rebuild.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, Laura, I just have faith that the Australian people, when faced with the choice at the next election, between a massive array of new taxes that Bill Shorten intends to introduce, a massive spending program the Labor intends to put in place, versus an economically prudent Coalition, which is bringing the Government's budget back into surplus, which is generating a record number of new jobs, the vast bulk of which are full time. When they are faced with that choice, I'm confident they will choose the Coalition and the Liberal Party. We saw them do it in South Australia, we saw them do it in Tasmania, we saw them do it in Bennelong, and we saw the Australian public do it in New England. So the runs are on the board, notwithstanding, all of this talk around Newspoll, and what's happening on the polls, at the last four elections, they have demonstrated time and time again that they choose the Coalition, because they do not want a massive taxing, massive spending, Labor Party to come back into government, because they know it will drive Australia into the ground.
LAURA JAYES: Is part of it, you being a student of political history in some senses? You look at what happened to the Labor Party, they rolled two leaders and they were left in a pretty bad position. We see Kevin Rudd tweeting from, I imagine, New York today, basically sticking it in to Bill Shorten, saying he was a part of a coup. Do you look at the lessons of the Labor Party, rolling two leaders, and think well, we don't want to do that ourselves because we don't want to end up in the same situation?
STEVEN CIOBO: To be honest, what I'm focused on, Laura, is what's best for the Australian people. What I'm focused on, and what the Cabinet is focused on, and the Government across the board, is making sure that we help to lighten the tax burden on Australians, making sure we continue to drive economic growth, making sure we continue to drive record job creation and 75 per cent of which is full time employment, that's what I'm focused on.
LAURA JAYES: Well Minister, I am just shocked, that you do not have some kind of special alert on your phone for every time Kevin Rudd tweets, you're not across his tweets from wherever he is around the world? I thought you'd be, as Trade minister would be keeping a very close eye.
STEVEN CIOBO: This goes precisely to what I was just about to say, which is that the Labor Party, as I said, drunk as they already are on the prospect that they think that they've already got the next election in the bag. But I mean, what we actually see on Labor's side is a very bitterly divided Labor Party. We continue to see infighting in Labor, we continue to see bloodletting from Labor. Yeah they hold it together from time to time, when they think they've got a sniff of a chance of victory, but you have a look at what happened in the Batman by-election, you have a look at the kind of comments that Bill Shorten reportedly said about Ged Kearney ahead of that by-election. I mean Labor is simply not a long term proposition for Australia. Their proposal of massive new taxes, massive new spending, and a very divided Labor Party is not a prospect that I think Australians will swallow.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, just one final question, on the Commonwealth Games, I know you were caught in a bit of traffic getting to your interview spot today, we forgive you for that, but is it finally starting to pick up? Are the crowds finally starting to arrive on the Gold Coast, and as a second part to my question, does there need to be, perhaps a rethink about how the Government, how the Council, how the Mayor handles such an event in the future? Because there are all these dire warnings about traffic and suggestions that Gold Coast locals get out and go on holiday somewhere else for the duration of the Games, and ticket sales have been down so, you know, does the Mayor need to, perhaps, apologize and rethink his message?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, this is one of the biggest sporting events that Australia will have this decade, and it's very important, of course that we go through the experience and we learn. Speaking very plainly, there's no doubt that the scare mongering about traffic was overstated, we saw numbers down against what projections were meant to be for last week. But I am pleased to say that there's a much stronger of level of activity and interest this week. Certainly there are a lot more cars on the road this week, but it's all very manageable, it's all part and parcel of having, you know, a major global event, like the Commonwealth Games, that attracts more than a billion viewers. This is great for the Gold Coast, it is great for Australia, it's great for our tourism industry, but you know, I think that no doubt, the Council and the State Government will learn some lessons from this.
LAURA JAYES: Steve Ciobo, thanks so much for your time today.
STEVEN CIOBO: Good to speak with you.
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