Australia can't afford the Government's willy nilly cash splash - Transcript, Sky News





SUBJECTS: NEG and coal-fired power stations, Government donation of $444 million to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

KIERAN GILBERT: With me now is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Thanks very much for your time. The Government looks like it's going to be adopting the competition watchdog approach of providing finance underwriting, new dispatchable power whether it be coal or gas. What's Labor's view of that which was a recommendation by the ACCC and Rod Sims?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Let's be careful about misinterpreting the ACCC, Kieran. Certainly there is no private sector appetite for building more coal fired power plants. It seems strange that an ostensibly market-based party in the Liberals would be proposing that we spend taxpayer money on new coal fired power plants. It's true around the world where you're seeing a drop off in coal demand as countries move to meet their Paris targets. Australia has seen rising energy prices and rising emissions under the Liberals. We need to make sure that we are doing our part to bring down emissions otherwise other countries - 
GILBERT: When you say don't misinterpret, what else do you mean by that? From what I read of that competition watchdog review of energy price recently, he said there needs to be a capacity for federal government to underwrite new dispatchable power sources. You don't agree that that was the outcome?
LEIGH: I don't see anything in the ACCC report that suggests the taxpayer dollars should go to fund new coal-fired power plants, Kieran.

GILBERT: Not explicitly coal, but it could be coal, gas, hydro - dispatchable power is what he said.
LEIGH: Certainly there is a need for dispatchability. We can get that in part by building energy sources that can be turned on and off quickly or else by better linking up the grid so you can draw on wind power from one part of the system when the sun's not shining in another part of the system. There's a range of ways of getting there. It's important that we meet those international targets because it's the right thing to do, because if we don't do it, other countries will start penalising us.
GILBERT: Do you see it as someone who represents a Canberra seat, obviously there is strong support for renewables in this part of the world for emissions reductions, but do you see the NEG as the best chance that we've got to get a bipartisan framework in place within which you can have your arguments about toughening emission reduction targets and so on?
LEIGH: There is a ‘Groundhog Day’ feel about this conversation, Kieran. You and I have been chatting for about seven years now and I feel this topic of the climate wars just keeps coming up again and again. We've been constructive and been willing to engage with the Government when they said they were going for an Emissions Intensity Scheme. Then they dropped it. We were constructive with the Clean Energy Target. Then they dropped it. With the NEG, we need to make sure that it's a system that is actually going to deliver what Australians want - lower power prices, lower emissions and more renewables in the system. We're worried that it might actually stop large scale renewables investment which will be counter to what most Australians - 
GILBERT: So what needs to be done then in this context to stop that investment strike, because to be honest looking at this industry, I don't see how that happens given the overwhelming weight of money that’s been heading in that direction. It’s not just simply going to fall off a cliff. If you look at where money is going internationally, that’s the focus.
LEIGH: You’re totally right about where it’s going internationally. But what you see if the pull-out of large scale renewables investment from Australia after 2013. If you’re building a long term energy project, you need to have long term policy certainty. Under the Liberals, we haven’t had that and that’s one of the reason why power prices have gone through the roof. Australians are investing – you see solar PV proliferating across Australian rooftops, showing that Australians are keen on renewables. People know that jobs are there in wind and solar, but the renewables industry needs to have guaranteed long term targets and that requires bipartisanship around our shared international goal.
GILBERT: Well, does there have to be bipartisanship around emissions reduction? It’s more about the frame work, isn’t it? That’s the key for certainty and if you wanted to, as I said earlier, get into government, you win the next election, you can then legislate to toughen the reduction.
LEIGH: Bipartisanship over some reasonable level of reduction. Labor’s climate targets are aimed at meeting what the government signed us up to in Paris. The government’s emissions reductions targets won’t meet what we agreed to do in Paris. And they’re woefully inadequate. I mean, 24 per cent emissions reduction will be achieved already so really what they’re saying is over the next decade, we’ll aim for a two per cent emission reduction – at a time when the rest of the world are reducing their carbon intensity and getting the jobs that come out of renewables investment.
GILBERT: On another matter, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has written to MPs to reassure them that they’re open to scrutiny, they’re open to any audit or Senate enquiries that might be coming, that they are only about the benefit of the reef. That’s what Anna Marsden, the managing director, has said in letters to every MP. Does that help placate the Labor Party at all?
LEIGH: The question here is less about the recipients of half a billion dollars of tax payer largesse than the process by which the government gave it. They’ve had some laughable excuses around this. First they were saying it was in the budget, therefore Labor supports it, as though because we didn’t block supply somehow Labor supported this extraordinary grant to the reef foundation. The process underlying that appears to have lacked the sort of rigour that you would expect even from giving a much more modest amount of money, let along half a billion dollars of taxpayer funding.
GILBERT: But the fact is they say they’re open to scrutiny, that they can leverage more funds because of their ties to the business community and that the vast bulk of the money raises – 90 cents in the dollar – is going to go to the reef. No one’s disputing the fact that that’s needed right now in terms of protecting the reef.
LEIGH: But you’ve got to be spending the money the right way. We’ve already seen, as Tony Burke has pointed out, evidence that the government has exaggerated the amount of private sector money that has been raised. We’ve seen significant issues of probity that Kristina Keneally has been exploring here. We need to get to the bottom of how the government is splashing money around. When debt’s gone from $9000 per Australian to $21,000 per Australian, we can’t have this willy nilly cash splash.
GILBERT: Andrew Leigh, I appreciate your time as always.
LEIGH: Thank you, Kieran.


Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.